Russian arms deal aims to modernize Vietnam army: PM

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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said the recent arms deal with Russia is meant to modernize Vietnam’s army and should not be seen as an arms race.

“It is a normal move,” Dung said at a press briefing in Hanoi Friday. Vietnam did not have the opportunity to buy modern submarines and aircraft until now, when the country has become more economically capable, he said.

“It’s not something unexpected and not an arms race,” he stressed.

The arms deal between was signed during Dung’s visit to Russia last month.

According to the Interfax news agency, Vietnam has agreed to buy six Russian-made submarines for US$2 billion. The subs would be built for the Vietnamese navy at a rate of one per year, Interfax reported, citing an unnamed defense industry source.

Vietnam always has two important missions, to develop and defend the nation, Dung said.

The country will still maintain its peaceful policies, but at the same time it needs to be strong enough to defend its independence, he said, noting that many countries in the region have already acquired submarines to protect their waters.

Corruption case

At the press conference, Dung said he was informed by the Ministry of Public Security that there was sufficient evidence to press bribery charges in a corruption case involving a major infrastructure project in Ho Chi Minh City.

Dung said he wanted the case to be judged fairly in accordance with Vietnamese laws and penalties must be imposed on the guilty parties.

Huynh Ngoc Si, former head of the East-West Highway project, was sentenced last October to three years in jail while his deputy, Le Qua, got two years.

They were found guilty of abusing their power in renting an office to Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International from August 2001 to November 2002 without reporting the lease in order to keep for themselves $67,300 in rent.

The HCMC People’s Court said at the time that its decision was lenient as the two had made many contributions to the project and the country.

High salaries

Answering a question on the controversy over huge salaries paid to managers at State Capital Investment Corp., the investment arm of the government also known as SCIC, PM Dung said if the monthly salaries have been fixed at VND40 million, any amount granted in excess of that needs to be reviewed carefully.

Dung conceded the government had delayed in setting up special operational mechanisms for SCIC as the corporation was different than any other companies.

He also said it was necessary to issue a new decree governing SCIC operations soon.

SCIC manages a capital base of more than VND40.7 trillion ($2.2 billion) with more than 800 companies.

State auditors said in December that although the corporation had posted an unimpressive performance in 2008, it had paid executives double the salaries it had proposed in a business plan submitted to the government earlier. The plan had set a monthly salary of VND40 million for SCIC’s managerial cadre.

Reported by Xuan Toan (With input from VietNamNet)

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