04 April 2012

Czech Defense Minister Talks up High-Tech Arms Sales to Vietnam

04 April 2012

Vera passive radar system (all photos : Czech Army)

Czech Defense Minister Alexandr Vondra (Civic Democrat, ODS) has suggested high tech arms exports could be exported to Vietnam.

Vondra, on a two-day official visit to Vietnam as part of an Asian tour on which he has been accompanied by a large delegation of Czech arms producers, suggested that there was nothing to stop high-tech arms sales to the fast-developing country.

“The Czech Republic can provide quite developed technology, and I think that there is nothing to prevent that happening,” Vondra said, according to a ministry press release.

Public broadcaster Czech Television (ČT) said Vondra also included the highly sophisticated Czech aircraft detection system VERA among the technology that could be offered to Vietnam. “I do not think that the Czech Republic should currently make up some sort of blacklist,” the minister is reported to have said with regard to the passive radio location technology.

But a blacklist was precisely what was in place in the past regarding the sale and lease of VERA technology. Washington reportedly put pressure on the Czech Republic in 2004 not to export the technology — said to be the only one that can detect Stealth aircraft — to China.

Willingness to provide VERA technology to Vietnam but maintain the ban on China could be expected to cause problems with Beijing and complicate trade relations that Prague is keen to boost.

China and Vietnam have tense relations in spite of both having communist regimes; a short war along erupted between the two in 1979. Both have been earmarked as countries where the Czech governments wants to sell more goods and reduce its dependence on its overwhelming on European trade.

Vondra also highlighted the wider opportunities for Czech arms firms in Vietnam. “I think that Vietnam is a very promising market. It has a strong army which the country needs and that must be modernized,” the minister said after meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, General Phung Quang Thanh.

Vondra singled out Czech opportunities to modernize the Vietnamese air force, which already has 20 civil versions of the Czech-produced L-39 jet and BVP1 and BVP2 (BMP1 and BMP2) armored fighting vehicles, produced under license in the former Czechoslovakia during the Soviet era, which are also used by the Vietnamese army.

Czechoslovakia was a supplier to North Vietnam during the war against the southern regime supported by the US. The Czech made VZ 58 assault rifle is still used by the Vietnamese army.

The company producing the VERA technology, ERA, was sold back into Czech hands at the end of 2011 by the US company SRA International. It now belongs to Czech arms middleman and major export company Omnipol.


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