Russia's Putin signs energy, military deals with Vietnam

HANOI - Russia and Vietnam will cooperate in offshore oil exploration and deepen military ties, President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday after "constructive and open" talks with his counterpart in Hanoi.

Putin hailed increased bilateral trade - worth some US$3.6 billion last year, up 20 per cent year-on-year - as the two countries work towards a free trade agreement.

They signed agreements on issues ranging from defence cooperation to joint oil exploration in Vietnam's offshore blocks, after Putin met Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang.

"We will deepen our successful cooperation in the oil sector," Putin said after the meeting.

Rosneft and PetroVietnam have signed an agreement on joint oil exploration in Vietnam's offshore Block 15-1/05, he said, adding the Cold War-era allies also aimed to build links between their heavy industry, aviation and automobile sectors.

"Russia will sell Vietnam more military equipment," Putin added, without elaborating.

Earlier this month Russia delivered the first of six diesel-electric Kilo Class submarines to Vietnam under a deal signed in 2009.

Vietnam is barred from purchasing lethal weapons from the United States due to concerns over its rights record.

In recent years Moscow has announced contracts worth billions of dollars to sell 20 Sukhoi fighter jets and the six submarines to Vietnam.

In 2010 Moscow and Hanoi signed a deal to construct the first nuclear power plant -- with two reactors -- in Vietnam. The project is expected to cost more than four billion euros ($5.1 billion).

"Russia is working with Vietnam not only to build the country's first nuclear power plant, but also train staff and set up a science and technology centre," Putin said at a press conference after the talks.

The two nations also signed deals on issues from prisoner transfers to new joint ventures in the banking sector.

Vietnam's President Sang described the talks with Putin as "extremely successful".

Russia and Vietnam have a long history of cooperation. After the Vietnam War ended in 1975 the Soviet Union supplied its Communist ally with vital aid and arms, while they maintained close ties even after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Vietnam is one of the world's last remaining communist countries, but it has embraced a market economy and opened up to Asian and Western investment over the past two decades.

After his one-day visit to Hanoi, Putin will travel to South Korea for an official visit Wednesday.