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Putin visits Vietnam to boost strategic partnership

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (R) receives Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hanoi on November 12 /PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE

Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Hanoi Tuesday for a one-day state visit aimed  at boosting the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.

The Kremlin press service said the visit also seeks to further enhance cooperation in trade, business, investment, and humanitarian affairs.

President Truong Tan Sang, at whose invitation the visit comes, and Putin will attend the opening of the Days of Russian Culture in Vietnam.

A number of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during the visit.

The priorities include speeding up of negotiations for an early signing of a free trade agreement between Vietnam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The two sides will also discuss ways to speed up work on the proposed Ninh Thuan 1 Nuclear Power Plant and nuclear science and technology center, and establish more joint ventures for oil and gas exploration in Vietnam.

The two leaders will discuss ways to further boost defense and security cooperation.

On November 7 Russia handed over to Vietnam the first of six diesel-electric Kilo Class submarines under a deal signed in 2009.

Before Putin's visit, the Vietnamese media published a statement from him in which he hailed the "all-encompassing" strategic partnership between the two countries.

Russia-Vietnam trade rose 20 percent last year to US$3.66 billion, and they hope to increase that figure to $7 billion by 2015 and $10 billion by 2020, he wrote.

With these goals in mind, Russia "is counting on successfully closing" an agreement to establish a free-trade zone between Vietnam and the Russian-led Customs Union, negotiations for which are ongoing, he said.

He went on to praise the work of several Russian-Vietnamese oil joint ventures.

Flagship enterprise Vietsovpetro has already extracted 206 million tons of oil from the continental shelf, while Rusvietpetro is performing well in Russia's Yamal-Nenets autonomous district and the fledgling Gazpromviet has begun developing oil and gas fields in the Orenburg region and other areas, he wrote.

State natural resource giants Gazprom and Rosneft are increasing their foothold in Vietnam through hydrocarbon projects, delivery of liquefied natural gas from the Far East, and modernization of oil refineries.

It is Putin's fourth trip to Vietnam after visiting as Russian president in 2001 and 2006 and prime minister in 2011.

Vietnam is the second country in the Asia-Pacific region he is visiting after China in his new term.

From Vietnam, he travels to South Korea for an official visit Wednesday.