Israeli President on first Vietnam trip

Communist Vietnam and Israel established ties in 1993 but Hanoi did not open an embassy in Israel until 2009.

Hanoi: Shimon Peres on Wednesday began the first
visit by an Israeli President to Vietnam, about 18 months
after Hanoi postponed the trip following condemnation of
Israel`s raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship.

The visit, until Saturday, aims to expand economic ties
between the two nations whose two-way trade totalled only
about USD 220 million last year, according to official
Vietnamese media.

"We agree to expand our cooperation in the agricultural
sector. Israel is ready to share experiences in fields
prioritised by Vietnam," Peres said after he and his
Vietnamese counterpart, Truong Tan Sang, witnessed the signing
of a cooperation agreement on sea transport and a document on
financial cooperation.

One Vietnamese analyst sees the mission as a good
opportunity for Israel to develop economic links with Vietnam
and its neighbours, while Hanoi seeks to take advantage of
Israel`s high-tech expertise.

"A country of importance like Israel... should develop a
relationship with Southeast Asia," Nguyen Ngoc Truong, a
retired Vietnamese diplomat, said ahead of the visit.
Communist Vietnam and Israel established ties in 1993 but
Hanoi did not open an embassy in Israel until 2009.

The Palestinians, who backed Vietnam`s wartime struggle
against the United States, have been recognised as a state by
Hanoi since 1988.

Peres had been scheduled to visit Vietnam in June 2010
but Hanoi sought a delay after Israel`s commandos killed nine
Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

The Israeli delegation includes Science and Technology
Minister Daniel Hershkowitz and Agriculture Minister Orit
Noked as well as several dozen representatives of high-tech,
"security", agriculture and other firms, said a statement from
Peres` office.

Carl Thayer, an Australia-based Vietnam analyst, said he
suspected Israeli defence industries had been quietly
supplying Vietnam for years with sensitive technical equipment
-- though details are vague.

"It`s just so hush-hush, it`s very hard to find out
anything about it," he said.

Vietnam has been trying to upgrade its ageing military


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