Vietnam has distinct ties with China, US: deputy defense minister

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Vietnam welcomes the presence of all countries in the Asia-Pacific region on the basis of mutual benefit, compliance with international law and respect for each other's independence and sovereignty, a defense official said Tuesday.

Talking to Thanh Nien about relations between Vietnam, the United States and China, Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh said it should not be seen as trilateral relations.

"It is necessary to distinguish between Vietnam China and Vietnam US relations," Lieutenant General Vinh said on the sidelines of the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials' Meeting Plus Working Group (ADSOM+WG) in the Central Highlands town of Da Lat on December 7.

"We always consider China a socialist neighbor with whom we've had historic bilateral relations. Leaders of the two countries have committed to the 16-word principle (long-term stability, future orientated, good neighborliness and friendship and all-round cooperation) and have recently agreed on a comprehensive and strategic relationship."

Meanwhile, relations between Vietnam and the US can be understood from a different angle.

"Vietnam-US relations after 20 years of reform and 15 years of diplomatic ties have seen positive improvements in mutual understanding."

He said the increased understanding has led to greater cooperation for bilateral benefit in the areas of economy, national security and defense.

He said there were "unavoidable dissimilarities" in bilateral relations that will take time to address. Meanwhile, it was important that both countries have found the direction to forge effective cooperation while accepting and respecting differences.

Talking about the role of China-US relations in regional security, Vinh said that Vietnam will handle problems based on specific relations with each country.

"Vietnam will not get involved in issues between China and the US as long as they do not affect Vietnam's benefits, violate international law, or threaten regional peace and stability," he said.

Commenting on the US stand on East Sea disputes, Vinh said that Vietnam agrees with what the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in August about building a peaceful and developed sea area, handling disputes peacefully and in line with international law and maintaining safety for maritime lines.

"Vietnam respects the US's stand on the region and its interest in the Asia-Pacific region, Southeast Asia specifically. But the respect and welcome is based on the condition that its [the US] presence can maintain peace and stability as well as promote equality in international relations," he said.

Vinh said a student from Vietnam National University - Hanoi had recently asked the US Secretary of Defense how long the US would be present in the region. "I would have instead asked how the US would be present in the region."

The question is how the US can ensure that its own benefit and that of other countries in the region are maintained at the same time. "I think they are quite experienced in this issue," he said.

On Russia's interest in the Asia Pacific region, he said it would be welcomed. "Russia is a big country and one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, thus it is responsible for security of the world in general and the Asia Pacific region in particular."

Moreover, Russia has many interests in the region and has shown its intentions to return here by sending officials to recent summits and conferences, Vinh noted.

At the ASEAN Defense Senior Officials' Meeting Plus Working Group on December 7, participating countries discussed plans to promote defense cooperation, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Vinh said it was a good sign that Vietnam and China agreed to multilateral cooperation on the issue.

"Firstly, it is necessary to rescue victims of natural disaster without being limited by borders and sovereignty. The second matter is to protect labor at sea, including in fishing and exploitation of other marine resources," he said.

He also stressed that humanitarian considerations should be foremost in dealing with disputes at sea including the seizure of fishing boats.

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