On 8 July, the Australian Defence Force announced that a Royal Australian Air Force C-17 Globemaster has helped to transport over 60 Vietnamese military personnel to South Sudan for an ongoing United Nations peacekeeping mission.

The flight, conducted by the Australian Defence Force, has provided a strategic airlift for Vietnamese soldiers and equipment from Ho Chi Minh City to Juba, South Sudan, enabling Vietnam to rotate their staff at the role 2 field hospital.

Vietnam’s President, Võ Văn Thưởng, attended a farewell ceremony held in honour of the peacekeepers’ departure from Ho Chi Minh City. 

Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Greg Bilton, said Australia and Vietnam’s deepening defence relationship enabled both nations to make an active contribution as regional partners to the maintenance of the global rules-based order.

Hostilities in Sudan

Violence in Sudan resumed in April this year. The Sudanese Armed Forces and a largely independent contingent within the Army, known as the Rapid Support Forces, continue to fight for political control. Military forces have continuously derailed attempts for a transition to democracy.

“Let us be clear: the responsibility for the fighting rests with those who are waging it daily,” said Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS). 

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While the international community urged parties to de-escalate and increased engagement with military leaders, on 15 April — when progress was thought to have been made — the parties reverted to war.

The Secretary-General of the UN Mission in South Sudan, Nicholas Haysom, stressed that the mission in South Sudan aims to protect civilians, facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and support the return of displaced families and refugees including returnees from Sudan.

On 6 July, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair released $8m from the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund to help refugees and returnees from Sudan who are seeking shelter in South Sudan. The funds will help organisations on the ground provide food, water, shelter and medical care to those affected by the ongoing violence. 

Some 150,000 people have arrived in South Sudan since the current hostilities began; the UN expects that number to increase as the crisis continues.

Indo-Pacific joint force

“Vietnam is an important partner for Australia. We share a strategic interest in maintaining a peaceful and stable Indo-Pacific.

“Our militaries work collectively and learn from each other – not only through this close peacekeeping partnership, but also through professional military education and skills exchange programmes,” Bilton emphasised.

While on the surface the integrated forces may appear unimportant, but this co-operation works toward a more pressing goal: for interoperability across the Indo-Pacific. Australia’s Defence Strategic Review (DSR), published on 24 April, marks the significant military challenged posed by China, which has curbed international law, threatening a free and open Indo-Pacific.

“No longer is our alliance partner, the United States, the unipolar leader of the Indo-Pacific… Major power competition in our region has the potential to threaten our interests, including the potential for conflict. The nature of conflict and threats have also changed.

“Southeast Asia is one of the key areas of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. Investing in partnerships in this region will be critical to maintaining the regional strategic balance,” the DSR states.

This has brought Australia to enhance its military capabilities alongside strategic partners in the region, such as Vietnam.

“This is the fifth year Australia has been able to provide the strategic airlift to assist Vietnam rotate their military personnel through a UN mission,” Bilton added.