Castro set to make historic visit to Hanoi
CUBAN President Dr Fidel Castro is to visit Vietnam early next month for the first time in 22 years, further boosting Hanoi's ties with its longtime Caribbean ally.
Hanoi has yet to comment officially but government sources have confirmed that Dr Castro's trip will follow his first-ever visit to China starting on Wednesday.
Dr Castro is tipped to seek Vietnam's advice on market-driven social and economic changes, a path the ageing communist revolutionary has just embarked upon.
Vietnam and Cuba, now among the last communist-ruled states, still enjoy strong links as Hanoi actively courts new capitalist counterparts.
The visit follows a lengthy tour of Cuba last month by Vietnamese President Le Duc Anh, who said Cuba 'would always occupy a special place in the heart of every Vietnamese'.
Dr Castro last toured Vietnam in September 1973, even visiting areas of the then South Vietnam that had been captured by communist forces.
Hanoi frequently stresses it remains permanently 'indebted' to both Dr Castro and Cuba for unquestioned political and economic support throughout its 11-year war against the United States.
Vietnam has repeatedly sent Cuba food relief funded through national donation campaigns. Some US$5 million (HK$38.65 million) worth of rice and other staples were sent earlier this year.
The two countries have long exchanged expertise in food production and health care, with Cuban engineers and architects building roads and hotels in Vietnam.
Dr Castro is expected to stay in one such resort, the Cuban-built Thang Loi Hotel on Hanoi's West Lake, which hosted German Chancellor Dr Helmut Kohl 10 days ago.
He is expected to visit Ho Chi Minh City, where a booming economy is driving Vietnam's growth.