TEL AVIV, Israel – In a rare public acknowledgement of growing defense trade with Israel, Vietnam President Tran Dai Quang said Israel "has become a big partner of Vietnam" and should work to deepen bilateral ties in research, development and technology transfer.

Quang's remarks came at a reception held in Hanoi for Yitzhak Aharonovitch, chairman of Israel's state-owned IMI Systems, where the Vietnamese leader cited "consistently growing" cooperation, "especially in the areas of security and defense."

According to an IMI statement released Monday, Aharonovitch, a former minister for public security, said the Israeli company he now chairs has been investing in Vietnam since 1999 and hoped that "mutual collaboration and high technology knowledge transfer" with Vietnam would continue to grow.

"Aharonovitch stressed that the advanced weapon systems developed and manufactured by IMI Systems correspond to the advanced technology used by the Vietnamese Army," the statement read.

Although the press release did not identify specific IMI products that have been sold to Vietnam, sources said the list includes advanced tank rounds, artillery systems and the firm's Extra, a four-meter-long precision artillery rocket designed to carry a range of warheads up to distances of 150 kilometers.

 According to the IMI statement, Aharonovitch last visited Vietnam in 2014 in his role as Public Security minister. "President Quang praised the contribution of Aharonovitch in expending Vietnamese-Israeli cooperation during his tenure as Minisdter of Public Security and expressed the hope that Aharonovitch will continue to further promote bilateral relations, especially in training quality personnel in the field of technology."

In March 2015, the two countries concluded a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation that codified areas for expanded defense trade, technology transfer and licensed production.

The IMI Chairman's visit to Vietnam comes on the heels of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's week-long visit to Singapore and Australia; a trip that the Israeli leader defined as an "Asia pivot" aimed at strengthening regional ties among a spectrum of industries, including aerospace and defense.

Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at

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