Deputy Minister of Defense, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh reviews Vietnam’s military and defense hallmarks in 2020.
Despite big changes in 2020, what were the advantages and challenges for the implementation of military and defense missions?
Deputy Minister of Defense, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh.
The year 2020 is the last year of the 5-year term and it was a fundamental advantage in performing the defense and military missions that we have had regular and close leadership of the Party and the government's timely support.
However, this was also a year full of difficulties and challenges when the whole world was stalled by the Covid-19 pandemic. On the national level, Vietnam has dealt with the disease well and it is basically under control. In the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, the military has performed heavy duties such as participating in the quarantine of hundreds of thousands of people, guarding the border to prevent illegal entry and exit, and others.
The military is involved in both disease prevention and border security enforcement.
In addition, we must perform military and defense missions well. It is to protect territorial sovereignty, and maintain peace for the country. It is easy to say rather than to do. To defend the country’s sovereignty, the first thing is to not allow a Covid-19 outbreak in the army, especially soldiers in remote areas.
Secondly, while fighting the epidemic, the army still has to be ready for combat and training tasks. In 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the entire army has operated normally.
What were the outstanding results of defense foreign affairs over the past year?
Defense foreign affairs are part of state foreign affairs, and a characteristic of defense foreign affairs is confidence building. The army is the fighting force to defend the homeland. In peacetime, this is a very special force to protect peace and friendship between nations by cooperation and commitments not to use force in all matters of international relations.
In the Party's documents, the Party Congress has repeatedly said that we must defend the Fatherland from an early stage and from a distance, by peaceful means. In addition to defending territorial sovereignty, the interests of the nation, the nation, the regime and the people, it is also about protecting peace. Therefore, the army must take an active part in foreign affairs.
In foreign affairs, first of all, we are interested in relations with neighboring countries such as Laos, Cambodia and China, and how to have a peaceful relationship, especially a stable and peaceful border. We have a land border, the border on the Gulf of Tonkin for peace, stability and cooperation for development, which are the driving force and the basis for the country’s stability and development.
In the East Sea, despite many difficulties and challenges, we still retain what we have and we constantly fight to defend legitimate sovereignty under international law. Meanwhile, peaceful activities at sea such as oil and gas exploration, fishing, marine research, transportation and tourism are still developing.
The Vietnam Cost Guard is always side by side with Vietnamese fishermen.
Secondly, we have relations with major countries as well as countries with interests related to Vietnam. We have relations with more than 80 countries in terms of defense and military. All relationships have substantial contents, bringing practical effects to the task of defending the country.
In terms of multilateral cooperation, defense and military relations of Vietnam in ASEAN are very prominent. In 2019 we officially became a partner of the European Union (EU) in terms of defense and military.
It is a very distant relationship, but we should remember that in 2020 we inked the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) with the EU, with very favorable conditions for the country's economic development. Without a defense cooperation agreement, there is no confidence and no trust for socio-economic agreements.
We also increased our activities in the United Nations (UN) environment. 2020 was the first year when two Vietnamese officers passed the exams to join the UN strategic advisory agency.
2020 was also a good year for Vietnamese female officers, who participated in UN peacekeeping operations at a proportion of about 17% - the highest rate of all countries in the world. All of the Vietnamese female officers have been rated for their excellent performance.
2020 was also the year that Vietnam assumed a dual role - non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and ASEAN Chairman. Could you evaluate the contributions in defense and foreign affairs in enhancing the role, position and reputation of Vietnam in the region and in the world?
Vietnam’s Minister of Defense, General Ngo Xuan Lich and the Defense Ministers of ADMM+ countries sign a joint statement.
Before entering 2020, we had plans with a lot of content, which set a requirement to make a breakthrough for the country’s position in the international arena. However, under the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, we had to change the plan.
In terms of defense, when the epidemic broke out, the military had to shift all operations to adapt to the prolonged epidemic. Secondly, we determined that despite the epidemic, the content of international cooperation on foreign affairs with ASEAN and the UN, particularly peacekeeping operations, would be maintained.
So far, we can say that all the plans and content have been done well. Recently, Vietnam organized the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus - ADMM+) consisting of 10 ASEAN countries, eight partners and some guests (the UN, the EU, Canada, France, the UK, Germany). The event attracted the participation of Defense Ministers from all of these countries.
The content discussed at the conference has been very useful for Vietnam in defending sovereignty and enhancing the country's position, but also in creating a consensus of other countries. This is extremely difficult amid strategic division and fierce competition among powers. In particular, we signed the ADMM+ Joint Statement with a strategic vision.
Deputy Minister of Defense and Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh
In 2010 we held the first ADMM+ and issued a joint announcement. In 2013, the ADMM+ issued the second joint statement. Since then, it has failed to release a joint statement due to a lack of consensus.
This time we could issue a joint statement with important content, such as on the East Sea: not using force, complying with international law, not making the situation more complicated, respecting political institutions of other countries...
All of this content was included in the joint statement even though some issues are sensitive to some countries. It is thanks to Vietnam’s position, geopolitical position, and Vietnam’s efforts in recent years that the big countries agreed to stand in the same playing field.
Can you comment on the national security situation in the world as well as Vietnam’s policy in the year to come?
I think that the situation in 2021 will still follow the trend of the past years: the strategic competition of powers will be getting intense, and strategic competition will be pouring more and more into Asia and the Pacific.
We must actively strengthen defense relations. Because we need to be proactive, we have to set the rules, and not wait. Besides multilateral relations, we must attach great importance to bilateral relations, especially with neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, China, old friends such as Russia and Cuba, and countries like Japan and South Korea.
Defense cooperation must be strengthened to increase trust, which is the basis for socio-economic development. Another area in which foreign defense must try harder is overcoming the consequences of war. International cooperation is very important to mobilize financial, technology and media resources to perform this task.
Defence diplomacy is not only an external task of the Ministry of National Defence or the army but also associated with national independence, sovereignty, and interests of Vietnam, as well as security and peace in the region and the world.
Defence foreign policy has now become more critical than ever, as it plays an important role in creating a strategic enabling environment for both national defence and construction, especially in the maritime space.