Vietnam continues to show interest in South Korean defence equipment

Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) has suggested that it could acquire South Korean arms and equipment such as the Hanwha Aerospace K9 155mm self-propelled howitzer (SPH) for the Vietnam People’s Army (VPA), according to Vice-Minister of National Defense Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Xuan Chien.

Snr Lt Gen Hoang made the remarks to his counterpart Lieutenant General (retd) Kim Seon-ho during the 11th Vietnam-Republic of Korea Defence Policy Dialogue in Hanoi on 23 April, while expressing Vietnam’s desire to expand defence industrial cooperation with South Korea.

He also noted that bilateral defence ties have been enhanced across other areas such as cyber security and education and training following the upgrade of the Vietnam-RoK relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership in December 2022.

Meanwhile, the South Korean MND separately stated that Snr Lt Gen Hoang had “evaluated Korean weapons systems and expressed his intention to expand defence industry cooperation, including the introduction of Korean weapon systems such as the K9 SPH and requested cooperation from the Korean government”.

The latest development follows a high-level Vietnamese MND visit led by Minister of National Defense General Phan Van Giang to South Korea in February 2023. Official photographs released by the MND-run People’s Army Newspaper showed Gen Phan and his entourage touring a Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) VII Maneuver Corps base and inspecting a range of weapons and equipment, including the K9 SPH.

According to several Vietnamese and Korean reports at the time, Gen Phan had also been briefed by Hanwha Aerospace executives on the company’s systems.

Although the largest and most experienced of the three military services, the VPA faces an uphill task in raising its professionalism and maintaining its large inventories of Chinese and Soviet-made legacy combat vehicles and equipment, particularly with the loss of foreign assistance following its conflict with the China and subsequently the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

For instance, the VPA is seeking to replace its eclectic and decades-old inventories of artillery systems, including captured US-made 105mm M101 and 155mm M1 and M114 howitzers, as well as Soviet-vintage 152mm M1955/D-20 field guns.

Moreover, the bulk of the army’s firepower had until recently resided in its 1970s era main battle tanks (MBTs) such as the Chinese-made Type 59 and Soviet T-54/55 and T-62. However, as these MBTs are increasingly outmatched by modern vehicles and anti-tank weaponry now in service with regional military forces as well as China, it has recently taken delivery of 64 T-90S/SKs from Russia’s state-owned UralVagonZavod (UVZ).

by Jr Ng