Vietnam general pledges intentions of peace with China

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Vietnam Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh in a dialogue with the Chinese press in Beijing June 7

A high-ranking Vietnamese military official told local media during a visit to China that Vietnam does not intend to become involved in any wars and would support both Chinese and US policies in the region if they are beneficial to all countries involved.

Lieutenant General and Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh held a press conference with major Chinese newspapers on Friday as requested, following a two-day dialogue with his subordinates and Chinese counterparts.

He said as a small country, Vietnam is aware that it should be a friend or partner rather than an enemy to anyone.

"Vietnam has no plans to play a third country off against China," he said, replying to a question from a Global Times reporter.

"For more than 20 years since our reforms (in 1986), Vietnam has made no international relations at the expense of a third country."

He emphasized further that China is "a top priority" in Vietnam's diplomatic agenda.

When asked about Vietnam's concern over China's growth expressed on Vietnamese blogs and online forums, Vinh said he personally has no such worry.

"China's development is part of world development if it brings peace, stability and is based on cooperation.

"Vietnam supports China's development in that spirit."

He said that despite recent conflicts between the two nations, including physical ones like attacks launched against Vietnamese fishing vessels and Chinese forces in the East Sea, internationally known as the South China Sea, the countries' leaders still need to sit down for bilateral talks as "that is the only way to solve disagreements and conflicts, for the sake of each other's interests."

The general said the loss of peace would be a disaster to both countries. "Both [governments] need to prove to their people and the world that we can coexist and cooperate."

Asked by a Xinhua reporter about Vietnam's peace policies, specifically its decision to order six Kilo-class combatant submarines from Russia (two have arrived), Vinh said a weapon does not decide how it is used, but its user does.

"The weapon can kill, but it can also be used for defense."

He repeated Vietnamese defense minister Phung Quang Thanh's pronouncement at the Shangri-La Dialogue last year that the submarines would not be used for any purposes other than protecting Vietnam's seawaters.

With regard to US pivot towards the Asia-Pacific region, Vinh said the country will have Vietnam's support if its strategies guarantee peace, stability and equality in the region.

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