Vietnam's Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh
Vietnam will rely on its own resources to solve sea disputes and protect its sovereignty, Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh told Thanh Nien in an interview.
The interview was conducted on the sidelines of the Shangri-La dialogue, an annual Asia-Pacific security form, held June 1-3 in Singapore.
Thanh Nien: What are the policies and preparations Vietnam has made to ensure it will not lose its East Sea rights and benefits?
Nguyen Chi Vinh: Vietnam's stand has been consistent: protecting national sovereignty, respecting reasonable benefits of countries within and outside the region, and solving every dispute with peaceful measures and on the basis of international laws.
Therefore, over the past years, we have focused a lot on improving our national resources, stabilizing the country, and developing the economy. We have also been engaged in diplomatic activities with regional countries and joined multilateral forums, adding to the voices calling for sustainable peace in the region.
The resolution issued at the 11th session of the Communist Party of Vietnam's Central Committee marked new progress by stating that Vietnam is active and proactive in integrating with the world. The change, on one hand, helps us develop our economy and society, and stabilize the country. On the other hand, it contributes to efforts to create peace and enhance stability within the region and in the world.
Unlike last year, no serious encounter has taken place between Vietnam and China since the beginning of this year. What is the reason for this?
It is true that over the past year we have, step by step, built a trustworthy base for the two countries' relationship (to grow). However, we can't be too optimistic, and have to continue talking practical and detailed actions. To achieve good things in reality requires continuous effort in improving cooperation, understanding and mutual benefits.
In my opinion, the most important reason is the great efforts made by both Vietnamese and Chinese leaders to create a stable and positive relationship, one of which was General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong's visit to China. During the visit (last October), the two parities signed the agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues. The agreement's most important point is that based of their traditional friendship, the two countries commit to solving East Sea issues with peaceful measures and according to international laws.
The agreement's nature, in fact, has been mentioned in previous commitments and partly reflected in the countries' relationship with each other over the past years.
As I see it, an important point about the agreement is that it particularizes the "16 Golden Words" motto (Friendly neighborhood, comprehensive cooperation, long-term stability and future orientation) in the Vietnam-China relationship in solving East Sea issues. Besides, it happened right at a time when there were deep concerns about disputes, differences and conflicts between Vietnam and China, so it quickly cooled things down.
After the high-ranking leaders made commitments, our agencies have strictly followed and actively applied the principles.
In terms of defense, the countries have enhanced cooperation in navy, border defense, military areas, especially in border provinces. Economic establishments have also tried to improve cooperation and exchanges. Fishermen's violations in the sea were handled softly, especially on Vietnam's side.
On the other hand, we continued to expand our diplomatic relationships, joining the voice of the region and the world to solve East Sea's issues on the basis of international laws and no violence. We also became more and more transparent and open. For example, after signing the agreement with China, many regional countries asked what the commitments were. Would they affect other countries' benefits? Our policy is to be open about the commitments between Vietnam and China, and to clearly state that we respect the sovereignty and benefits of other regional countries as well as reasonable economic benefits of non-regional countries in the East Sea.
In Bali, Indonesia, last October, I represented Minister Phung Quang Thanh at the meeting between ASEAN defense ministers and US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. When Panetta asked me the same questions, I told him what we had achieved in the agreement with China. He said: "˜I myself and the US government totally approve and admire what Vietnam has achieved with China, especially the fact that the two sides are committed to following international laws. That you have achieved the agreement with China not only brings stability to the countries but also shows respect for the rights and benefits of other countries. It shows that you have proceeded in the right direction.'
ASEAN defense ministers also appreciated the agreement, because it not only marks progress in the Vietnam-China relationship but also in the relationship between ASEAN and China.
When sea disputes happen, what should our attitude be?
It has been accepted and approved by many countries that disputes should be solved with peaceful measures, in transparent and open ways by related parities within the region and in the world, and in compliance with international laws, particularly the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).
To abide by the 1982 UNCLOS means to respect coastal countries' sovereignty rights and jurisdiction over their continental shelf and their economic exclusive zones extending 200 nautical miles from shore.
Additionally, we have to object to the use of military as well as non-military force, also known as "soft power," to exert pressure and make threats. We have to reject any attempts to deliberately misinterpret international laws and act differently for one's own sake, creating the so-called 'double standards.'
Also, we must definitely not provoke or let ourselves be provoked. Instead, we need to prove to our people, the international community and the country which has disputes with us that we are just and reasonable.
But, the most important thing is that we have to rely on our own resources, political, diplomatic, economic and defense, to protect our independence and sovereignty. No depending on other countries. The power of national unification and the international community's support are the "political edge" that we need for victory.
It is necessary to distinguish between the international community's support for justice and dependence on other countries in solving disputes. If we are dependent or let the misunderstanding arise that we are relying on other countries' power to solve issues, it will be very dangerous. When your "˜backer' withdraws or strikes a compromise with the other side, you will be the first victim of making such a wrong choice.
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