Cuban President Raul Castro on Sunday began his official activities on a four-day visit to Vietnam aimed at strengthening bilateral relations between the two communist regimes.

Castro arrived in Hanoi on Saturday from China, where he had concluded an official four-day visit by signing eight bilateral accords on financial and technical aid to Cuba.

The Cuban leader is scheduled to meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung; the general secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong; and the country's president, Truong Tan Sang.

This is the first trip to Vietnam that Castro has made as president of Cuba and comes as the island is immersed in a reform process to "update" its socialist economic model and try to extricate itself from the crisis that has bogged it down for decades.

In April, Nguyen Phu Trong visited Cuba and met with Raul Castro and his brother and predecessor, former President Fidel Castro, who left office in 2006 for health reasons.

The Vietnamese communist leader at the time emphasized the similarities between his country's policy of "renewing" socialism (known as "Doi Moi") begun 25 years ago and the process of economic updating being carried out on the Caribbean island.

The Cuban government considers Vietnam a political and economic ally and maintains bilateral trade links - mainly in rice, textiles, shoes, computers, electronic and wood products, as well as coffee - that have exceeded $500 million in recent years.

Vietnam and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1960. EFE