Russian, Vietnamese leaders discuss ways to expand economic ties

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong on Saturday conferred over ways to develop economic ties between the Soviet-era allies.

During their meeting on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Busan, Putin told Luong that Moscow considered relations with Vietnam one of its foreign policy priorities.

"It is very pleasant to see the development of trade and economic ties," he said, adding that bilateral trade was likely to reach US$1 billion this year.

Luong responded that "the Vietnamese people have special feeling toward the people of Russia and regard them as the closest friend."

The Soviet Union built numerous industrial facilities in Communist Vietnam, including a major hydroelectric plant and offshore oil exploration facilities.

Putin visited Vietnam in 2001 to revive ties, which had been weakened by the Kremlin's lack of interest in its former key ally in southeast Asia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. During that visit, the two countries signed an agreement on strategic cooperation, reuniting Hanoi with its former top benefactor.

Russia and Vietnam are the only APEC nations still outside the World Trade Organization, and APEC leaders were expected to endorse their bid to join the WTO in the summit's final declaration, AP reported. V.A.

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