President Joko Widodo’s visit strengthens ties between Indonesia and Vietnam

President Joko Widodo’s visit to Hanoi has elevated diplomatic ties between Indonesia and Vietnam, emphasizing joint efforts to enhance security in the South China Sea and fostering corporate collaborations.

The leaders of Indonesia and Vietnam have underscored the importance of security in the South China Sea and deepened corporate ties, including investments by Vietnamese electric vehicle manufacturer VinFast, during a meeting between President Joko Widodo and President Vo Van Thuong in Hanoi.

Amid escalating tensions with Beijing in the contested South China Sea, President Thuong emphasized the need for peace and stability in the region. The leaders signed a memorandum of understanding on fisheries cooperation, which may address issues related to Vietnamese fishermen’s activities in contested waters, a recurring source of tension in the area.

Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, ahead of President Jokowi’s visit, expressed readiness to collaborate with other Southeast Asian nations to finalize a long-delayed code of conduct for the South China Sea. The code of conduct, if established, would be viewed as a significant development and a challenge to China’s assertiveness in the region.

China and Southeast Asian nations have been working on a framework for the code of conduct since 2002, but progress has been sluggish. Indonesia and Vietnam had previously challenged Beijing by recognizing the boundaries of their Exclusive Economic Zones in the South China Sea in 2022.

Indonesia, eyeing the export of gas to Vietnam from gas fields in the South China Sea, aims to deepen cooperation in the energy sector. President Jokowi commended VinFast’s plans to invest $1.2 billion in a plant and other operations in Indonesia, highlighting the company’s commitment to the country’s electric vehicle market.

During the visit, both nations also signed a memorandum of understanding on information technology and communication cooperation. Bilateral trade between Indonesia and Vietnam witnessed a 23% increase to $14.1 billion in the previous year, to surpass $15 billion shortly, according to President Thuong.

President Jokowi’s visit to Hanoi is part of a broader Southeast Asian tour, including stops in the Philippines and an anticipated visit to Brunei. While in Vietnam, he is expected to tour VinFast’s electric vehicle factory. As Vietnam pursues a strategy of strengthening ties with global powers, President Thuong expressed confidence in enhancing formal relations with Indonesia, indicating a potential deepening of diplomatic and economic cooperation between the two Southeast Asian nations.