Vietnam-Brunei: comprehensive cooperation, long-term trust toward future

Vietnam and Brunei are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic relations this year (February 29). Over the past three decades, their friendship and all-round cooperation have seen strong and substantial developments.

Mutual trust, understanding

The upgrade of Vietnam – Brunei relations to a comprehensive partnership in 2019 was a very important step, marking a transformation in both quantity and quality of bilateral relationship, demonstrating their leaders’ common determination to deepen ties in a practical manner that suits new situation and common trend of the region and the world.

Since 2019, the Vietnam – Brunei comprehensive partnership has thrived in main pillars of politics-security, trade-investment and people-to-people diplomacy.

In terms of politics, the two sides have maintained regular exchanges of delegations, with political trust being further consolidated and enhanced.

Amid the complicated COVID-19 pandemic developments in 2021, the two countries maintained high-level exchanges in flexible forms. While attending the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta on April 24, 2021, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh met Sultan of Brunei Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue held talks with President of Legislative Council of Brunei Abdul Rahman Taib on June 9, 2021. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh held phone talks with the country’s second Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Erywan Pepin Yusof on January 19. Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son also held phone talks with Brunei’s second Minister of Foreign Affairs Erywan Pepin Yusof.

Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son held phone talks with Brunei Second Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof on April 13 last year. (Photo: VNA)

Most recently, within the framework of the Brunei visit from September 6-8, Foreign Minister Son and second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Erywan Pepin Yusof co-chaired the second meeting of the Joint Committee on Vietnam-Brunei Bilateral Cooperation on September 7.

Promoting economic, trade bonds

Economic cooperation has grown strongly, exceeding the target of 500 million USD earlier than schedule in 2025 set by two countries’ leaders. Currently, there are two major Vietnamese projects underway in Brunei. The project to build a BFI fertiliser plant in Brunei, designed and installed by LILAMA Corporation in 2018, has been completed and became operational in October 2021. This is a key project contributing to realising the goal of economic diversification in the Vision Strategy 2035 of the Brunei Government.

Vietnamese goods such as coffee, juice and dried fruit have penetrated the Brunei market. (Photo: VNA)

Another project is a joint effort by PV Drilling Brunei – a branch of the PetroVietnam Drilling & Well Service Corporation, and Brunei Shell Petroleum. Since October 2021, PV Drilling has provided semi-submersible drilling rig for the BSP for at least a span of six years.

Recently, the Brunei Government has paid attention to investment in agro-fisheries, construction and infrastructure development to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil. These areas are strengths of Vietnam. The success of the project by LILAMA and several small-scale construction projects by Vietnamese partners in Brunei is a driving force to attract more Vietnamese investors to Brunei to explore the market.

Maritime cooperation is also one of the main pillars to carry out the contents of the Vietnam – Brunei comprehensive partnership for the benefit of the two nations. They need to step up sea and ocean cooperation, including activities such as effectively deploying a hotline to support fisheries activities, a joint venture in exploitation, expanding cooperation in aquaculture and processing, sharing information about law enforcement, and coping with security challenges at sea.

Illustrative image.  It is necessary for Vietnam and Brunei to step up sea and ocean cooperation, including activities such as effectively deploying a hotline to support fisheries activities. (Photo: VNA)

Regarding the people-to-people diplomacy and citizen protection, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented experiences over the past two years. The Vietnamese citizens in Brunei were stranded due to the impact of the border closure order. The Brunei government actively assisted them with legal papers to stay there pending flights back home.

Mutual support at multilateral forums

Pengiran Haji Sahari bin Pengiran Haji Salleh, Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Vietnam (left) receives a hammer, which represents ASEAN Chairmanship, from then Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc. (Photo: VNA)

Brunei and Vietnam are close partners that regularly assist each other at multilateral forums to which they are members such as ASEAN, the United Nations and related cooperation frameworks. Brunei supports Vietnam to join international forums. The two countries offer mutual liaison within the ASEAN framework and other regional and global forums.

In 2020 and 2021, Vietnam and Brunei successfully assumed the role of ASEAN rotating chairs, respectively. They actively supported each other’s initiatives and contributed to the building of the ASEAN Community, strengthened ASEAN’s centrality in the region, and backed each other in the fight against epidemics and in cooperation in regional economic recovery and development.

In the coming time, the two sides will maintain the measures of sharing experiences and coordinate their stances on regional and international issues, including responding to traditional and non-traditional security challenges; maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight; upholding the rule of law in the East Sea; boosting negotiations to reach an effective and practical Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) in line with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Vietnamese Ambassador to Brunei Tran Van Khoa and overseas Vietnamese pose for a photo at the 2022 Xuan Que Huong (Homeland Spring) programme, (Photo: VNA)

On the occasion of the official Brunei visit by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son on 6-8 September, Chargé d’Affaires of Brunei to Vietnam Syaffeenazz Tahir highlighted the significance of the visit and the development of the relations bilaterally and within ASEAN Community.

She stressed the visit is Son’s first after being appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam to co-chair the second meeting of the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC). It is expected to help strengthen the bilateral comprehensive partnership in a more substantive way.

In addition, it also enabled both sides to exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual concern, with both sides underscoring the importance of upholding ASEAN’s centrality and enhance coordination through multilateral cooperation. This is particularly crucial in the efforts to address current and future challenges for the shared benefit of the two peoples, countries and the whole region.

The Brunei sports delegation paraded at My Dinh National Stadium at the opening ceremony of the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi. (Photo: VNA)

She said she believes that the warm and friendly relations between Brunei and Vietnam will continue to grow from strength to strength as reflected in the active and increasingly multifaceted cooperation between the two countries. Brunei looks forward to working closely with Vietnam in strengthening existing cooperation and exploring potential collaborations in energy and aquaculture, she said.

According to her, the two countries also enjoyed good progress in culture, youth and sport exchanges through the mutual participation of the two peoples in events and activities organised in respective countries. These include Brunei’s participation in the recent 31st Southeast Asian Games successfully hosted by Vietnam in May 2022, as well as Vietnam’s involvement in the Southeast Asian Youth Al – Quran Reading Competition and the Hassanal Bolkiah Trophy for ASEAN Youth Football Championship organised by Brunei./