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60 years of diplomatic relations and defence cooperation between Vietnam and Cuba

The 60-year history of diplomatic relations and defence cooperation between Vietnam and Cuba has been highlighted by the valuable and wholehearted assistance in all aspects between the two peoples, contributing to the victory in the national liberation struggle of Vietnam in particular, the cause of building and defending the Fatherland of the two countries in general. Therefore, it is of special importance that we should further nurture this special, traditional relationship to make it ever stronger as the precondition for the two countries’ prosperity.

Since the last decades of the nineteenth century, the great son of Cuba, Jose Marti, expressed his emotion about the heroism and indomitable spirit of the Vietnamese nation in the article "A walk on Annam land - Un paseo por la tierra de los anamitas" written in 1889. Jose Marti told generations of Cubans and Latin Americans about the country, the people and the history of Vietnam and its heroic struggle. It was he, himself, the first Cuban to lay the foundation for the special solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and Cuba. On December 2nd, 1960, Vietnam and Cuba officially established diplomatic relations. Over the past six decades, although the two countries are geographically far away from each other and both have experienced ups and downs of history with extreme difficulties and challenges, the special solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and Cuba have been diligently nurtured, strengthened and developed by the two parties, states, militaries, and peoples.

The 3rd Vietnam-Cuba defence policy dialogue (photo:

Like the Vietnamese people, the Cuban people have struggled with numerous hardships and sacrifice to defend the achievements of their revolution and build their country under the siege and embargo of the U.S. and other hostile forces. In Latin America, Cuba has always taken the lead in the world people movement of supporting Vietnam's national liberation, independence, freedom and construction. The image of President Ho Chi Minh, and the country and the people of Vietnam has been very popular with the generations of Cuban people and definitely, the image of Cuba, its people, and leader Fidel Castro has also been very familiar with the people of Vietnam. President Fidel Castro's famous quote: "For Vietnam, we are willing to devote our blood" became an imperative to every Cuban and melted the heart of every Vietnamese.

During the Vietnam’s struggle to liberate the country, Cuba always gave Vietnam great, timely and effective support and assistance. Right after the establishment of its relations with Vietnam, Cuba was the first country to officially recognise the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam and the Front's permanent representative delegation in the external work of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam; it established a National Committee for solidarity with South Vietnam and was also the first state to send an ambassador to the Central Committee of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam.

In the early 1970s, the struggle for national liberation by the Vietnamese people entered the most difficult period. Despite many difficulties domestically, the Party, State and people of Cuba always accompanied and gave Vietnam great support both materially and mentally; thousands of tons of Cuban sugar were exchanged for foreign currency and then sent to the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam. Many engineers, workers, doctors and medical staff members, along with a large amount of medicines and medical equipment, went throughout the world to Vietnam.

In order to join Vietnam in constructing a "legendary road" to support the soldiers and people of South Vietnam during the struggle, Cuba assisted Vietnam with modern technical equipment and deployed military officers, engineers and specialists to work on the heavily attacked road under a great international spirit and Vietnam - Cuba fighting solidarity. In 1972, when the U.S. escalated the war with the bombing of the North Vietnam and blocked its seaports, the elite sons of Cuba bravely overcame the "rain of bombs and storm of bullets" to opportunely provide material assistance and encouragement for Vietnam. The image of sailors from the Imias and Jigue ships in Hai Phong harbour and Cuban medical teams standing side by side with Vietnam troops and people on the front line, wholeheartedly treating wounded and sick soldiers and victims of American bombs left very deep impressions and sentiments in the hearts of the Vietnamese people.

At domestic, regional and international forums, Cuba strongly condemned the U.S. invasion of Vietnam and it also organised mass movements to support Vietnam. The La Habana Radio had a special channel in English to tell Americans about the national liberation struggle of Vietnam, for national salvation, making contributions to gaining the support of the progressive and peace-loving people right in the U.S. to call and fight for an end to the war in Vietnam.

During his first visit to Vietnam (September 1973), President Fidel Castro went to the liberated zone of Quang Tri where he raised the flag of invincibility with a famous statement of inspiration: “comrades, you should hold this flag and raise it right in the centre of Saigon.” He was the only foreign head of state to visit the liberated zone of South Vietnam. It was his strong, brave words and the timely material support of the Cuban people that created a great source of encouragement for and empowered our troops and people to "fight to drive the US troops away and fight to overthrow the Saigon puppet regime," adding a new impetus to the friendship and comprehensive cooperation between the two armies in the following years. On April 30th, 1975, when Saigon was liberated, the whole country of Cuba was filled with flags, flowers, and even tears to celebrate the Great Victory of the Vietnamese people.

Being encircled and isolated, and sabotaged by imperialism and the hostile forces, Cuba and Vietnam have shown their faithful and sustainable solidarity, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other in the construction of socialism, and the firm protection of their Socialist Fatherland. President Fidel Castro once again expressed the faithful friendship of more than 10 million Cuban people: “Today Vietnam is engaged in the task of reconstruction and if we were willing to give our blood we should now be willing to give our sweat.”

On December 5th, 1984, in order to strengthen the special friendship and solidarity between Vietnam and Cuba, the governments of the two countries signed the Vietnam-Cuba Military Cooperation Agreement, according to which Vietnam would welcome Cuban delegations to the country for exchanging experiences in local people's war and studying the local military art and Vietnam would send delegations of Vietnamese military experts to help Cuba.

Under that Agreement, on March 3rd, 1985, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam issued the Directive 60/CT-TW on the organisation, task and working method of the Vietnam military expert delegation in the Republic of Cuba, in order to share the experiences that Vietnam had learnt from the people's war and the local military work with Cuba and help Cuban counterparts to conduct researches and apply them to Cuban practices. Besides, the Ministry of National Defence of Vietnam released decisions and directives for the implementation of the Directive 60/CT-TW by the Party Central Committee, while dispatching many delegations and military experts to help the Cuban revolutionary armed forces build defence systems at all levels, train their special force, engineers, local soldiers, militia and self-defence force, and military medicine, thereby making an important contribution to the cause of building and defending the Fatherland of the Cuban people.

In the late 1980s, the fall of socialism in the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries put Cuba in a very critical situation, while the country was still being blocked and embargoed by the U.S. and hostile forces. Therefore, Vietnam mobilised its valuable economic resources to help the Cuban people overcome material shortages. During their official friendship visits, leaders of the two Parties and States identified a new framework for bilateral cooperation, aiming at strengthening the traditional friendship and solidarity, and enhancing effectiveness of cooperation programmes between the two sides.

Entering the 21st century, Vietnam and Cuba have recorded great achievements in the cause of national construction and defence. The Vietnam - Cuba diplomatic relations and defence cooperation have ushered in a new period with more suitable, substantive and effective cooperation contents and methods. Basing on the strengths and demands of each country, the Vietnam-Cuba diplomatic relations and defence cooperation have been actively promoted. Implementing the Agreement on Defence Cooperation (2011) and the Plan for Defence Cooperation for 2014 - 2016 and 2017 - 2019 periods and the building of a profile on the 60-year history of defence cooperation between Vietnam and Cuba, the two sides have maintained the exchange of delegations at all levels so as to share experiences, especially in building a strong army, with a focus on the political strength, fostered defence industry cooperation and turned this field into a pillar of the bilateral defence relations. At the same time, Vietnam has assisted Cuba in teaching Vietnamese and training cryptography for the country’s cadres. In the field of air defence - air force, the two sides have exchanged experiences in maintaining and repairing weapons and equipment, improving and recovering fuel of anti-aircraft missiles, using fuel of aircraft, manufacturing and using drones, managing airspace, commanding air defence operations, and defending seas and islands, thus contributing to enhancing the strength of the two militaries to firmly protect the regime, the people, and the territorial integrity and sovereignty of each country.

Vietnam - Cuba diplomatic ties and the bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries are rare in the world history. They are relations built on the basis of proletarian internationalism, comradeship, and faithful and pure brotherhood. Promoting the special friendship between Vietnam and Cuba over the past 60 years and the results of defence cooperation, the two sides will further enhance cooperation in other aspects in order that the friendship, the special tradition, and the comprehensive cooperation between the two countries will develop more comprehensively.

Maj. Gen. Le Xuan Sang, Deputy Director of the Department of Propaganda and Training

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