Socialist Republic of Vietnam : News, Updates and Discussions

Gautam

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We Have Sovereign Rights Over Our Waters In South China Sea: Vietnamese Envoy

By Parul Chandra, New Delhi, 26 July 2019
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Temperatures are on the boil in the maritime domain both in the South China Sea as well as the Sea of Japan that lies to its north east. While the Vietnam-China face-off in the energy rich and strategically located South China Sea (SCS) continues, the Sea of Japan too became a flashpoint earlier this week with no less than four nations–South Korea, Russia, Japan and China–involved in a spat.

It happened after South Korea accused Russian and Chinese military aircraft of violating its airspace and fired 30 warning shots besides scrambling its jets. The Russian and Chinese aircraft had reportedly flown over the disputed Dokdo/Takeshima islands over which both South Korea and Japan stakes a claim. An angry Tokyo, with its claims on the island, in turn accused Seoul and Moscow of violating its airspace.

In the meantime, the sparring between Vietnam and China in the South China Sea shows no signs of abating. Both nations have competing claims in this sea and both claim sovereignty and jurisdiction over it as their naval vessels confront each other in what Vietnam says is its Exclusive Economic Zone.

In the first part of this exclusive interview with SNI Deputy Editor Parul Chandra, the Vietnamese ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau maintains it is his country that has sovereign rights as per UNCLOS. He also says that despite differences over the SCS, Vietnam and China have “good relations”and ties that are evolving in a constructive manner.

On the controversial Belt and Road Initiative of China (BRI), the envoy says while Vietnam understands India’s position on it, his country is part of it as it will promote prosperity in the region and beyond.



We Have Sovereign Rights Over Our Waters In South China Sea: Vietnamese Envoy - Sniwire News
 

Gautam

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Vietnam For Peaceful Resolution Of Maritime Disputes With China, Says Envoy

By Parul Chandra New Delhi 26 July 2019
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Amid yet another round of sparring between Vietnam and China in the resource-rich South China Sea, Vietnamese ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau has said that his country has sovereign rights and jurisdiction over its waters as per international law and UNCLOS (UN Convention on the Law of the Sea).

“Any activities in Vietnamese waters without our permission violate international laws, especially the law of the sea,” the envoy told SNI in an exclusive interview. And that “Vietnam’s position is to persistently and resolutely resist any action that infringes on our sovereign rights and jurisdiction.”

Incidents in the South China Sea involving the two Communist neighbours who are comprehensive strategic partners occur with unfailing regularity.

Chinese muscle flexing in the South China Sea has seen it involved in disputes not just with Vietnam but with the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. All these nations have territorial claims that are at times overlapping, over the South China Sea through which trillions of dollars worth of world trade transits annually.

In the ongoing standoff, Vietnam says a Chinese vessel meant to conduct geological surveys entered its exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea. Like Vietnam, China too claims sovereign rights and jurisdiction over the disputed waters that are said to have rich oil and gas reserves.

Ambassador Chau reiterated his country’s position: “Vietnam has full historical and legal evidence for the two archipelagos (Paracel and Spratly) and we have sovereign rights over our waters as per international laws, including UNCLOS.”

At the same time, he indicated that Hanoi is willing to settle the dispute in a peaceful manner in accordance with international law.”Regarding the territorial claims over the Spratly and Paracel islands by his country and China, the envoy said, “The two countries need to address the issue.” With particular reference to Spratly, he further said it has six claimants (among them are Vietnam, China and Taiwan) and the dispute needs to be addressed by all parties.

Without naming China, Chau emphasised that the broader issue is one of “peace, security, freedom of navigation, overflight, unimpeded trade and economic activities in this important maritime domain”.

Though Vietnam and China are at loggerheads over the South China Sea, their bilateral relations, often marked by friction and distrust, appear to be on an even keel at present. “We are comprehensive strategic partners and we have very good ties with China,” said Chau.

Vietnam, despite its differences with China over the South China Sea, has chosen to be part of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and has reasons for doing so. “It will contribute to the economic prosperity of the countries that are part of it,” said Chau.

Asked about the possible debt-trap countries part of the BRI may find themselves in, the envoy said: “We understand that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed. But our view is that it’s a positive and constructive initiative which cares not just for the prosperity of countries in the region but also beyond.”

As for the Indo-Pacific construct is meant as a counter to China, the envoy said: “Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific is open to everybody. There is no reason for any country to fear…this is a mechanism for cooperation.”

Beijing does not need to be anxious about the growing India-Vietnam defence ties, according to the envoy. “I don’t think China needs to worry as we have defence cooperation with China too. We’re increasing our cooperation with China in various sectors,” he stated.

And would Vietnam consider joining the Quad if it was expanded in the future to include more members? Dismissing it as a premature question, the envoy added, “We welcome all initiatives that contribute to maintaining peace and security in the region. So if the Quad acts on those lines, it’s in line with our position.”

Vietnam For Peaceful Resolution Of Maritime Disputes With China, Says Envoy - Sniwire News
 

Gautam

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On Maritime Spat With China, Vietnam Seeks India’s Backing

By Parul Chandra New Delhi 29 July 2019
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With the confrontation between Chinese and Vietnamese naval vessels in the disputed South China Sea showing no signs of abating, Hanoi wants New Delhi to speak up, especially with India’s growing role on the world stage.

Thus far, New Delhi has maintained a studied silence on the three-week-long standoff, even though an OVL (ONGC Videsh Ltd) oil block isn’t too far from the region where Chinese ships are flexing their muscles in what Vietnam claims its waters.

Hanoi wants New Delhi to raise its voice with regard to freedom of navigation and unimpeded commerce as enunciated by Unclos (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) in the resource-rich South China Sea.

Besides, diplomatic sources said India also has stakes in the region as nearly 50 per cent of its ships pass through this; therefore, India needs to back Vietnam’s demand for the observance of the rule of law and to ensure peace and stability is maintained in the region.

According to sources, OVL oil block no. 06/1 is located close to the area where Chinese and Vietnamese vessels have been engaged in a standoff since July 4. The oil block is barely 10 nautical miles from Vietnam’s base line and is located in its continental shelf as stipulated in the 1982 Unclos, sources added.

“China has conducted activities to obstruct Vietnam’s oil and gas exploration in block 06/1which lies within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf,” said sources.

They further said that joint ventures between OVL, Vietnam’s PetroVietnam and Russia’s Rosneft for oil and gas production have been in place for 17 years in these waters. Therefore, China’s opposition to such activities and use of force in this area is “unlawful and violates Vietnam’s sovereign rights over our waters as per Unclos,” said sources.

There are other reasons why Vietnam has gone on the diplomatic offensive and is counting on countries like India to back it. Hanoi maintains that the current sparring is “a matter that concerns all countries whose ships pass through the region”.

It’s seeking Indian support in the current spat in its capacity as a leading Asian power too. Further, it says India, a member of the Quad, should use the grouping to fend off Chinese assertion in the South China Sea.

Other than India with whom Hanoi has taken up matters at both the political and diplomatic levels, the sparring has also been taken to the ASEAN of which Vietnam is a member. Vietnam, in fact, says China should not escalate tensions and instead facilitate an environment that will be conducive to Code of Conduct negotiations between it and the ASEAN. A first reading of the draft code has just been completed by ASEAN member states and China.

So far, there appears to be no end in sight to the maritime dispute. Vietnam has sent diplomatic notes to China protesting what it says is violations by its neighbour of Unclos and asking that Bejing respect Hanoi’s sovereign rights and jurisdiction. Vietnam is also exploring legal remedies like approaching the international tribunal.

The faceoff began with Chinese seismic survey vessel Haiyang Dizhi 8 entering Vietnamese waters accompanied by a number of Coast Guard and fishing vessels. At one point of time, there were nearly 35 such vessels criss-crossing the region, said sources. Now, their number is estimated to be a dozen.

Vietnam is also worried about Chinese claims over the Spratly and Paracel islands, also in the South China Sea. It believes that regional peace, security and stability in the region is at risk with what it describes as Chinese militarisation on features it has “illegally built” on these islands.


On Maritime Spat With China, Vietnam Seeks India's Backing - Sniwire News
 

Gautam

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Feb 16, 2019
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We Are Considering Buying Defence Equipment Made In India: Vietnamese envoy

By Parul Chandra New Delhi 28 July 2019

India-Vietnam ties are not just robust but have been on an upward trajectory, an important pointer to this being the growing defence ties. It’s widely believed that the two countries have been stepping up defence cooperation to counter China’s growing might in the region.

In the second part of the exclusive interview with SNI Deputy Editor Parul Chanda, Vietnamese ambassador Pham Sanh Chau says the comprehensive strategic partnership between Vietnam and India reflects a deep and multifaceted level of political trust.

On the contentious issue of RCEP, the envoy says while ASEAN member states understand India’s reservations, efforts have been made to address India’s misgivings.



We Are Considering Buying Defence Equipment Made In India: Vietnamese envoy - Sniwire News
 

RISING SUN

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Vietnam’s 2019 Defense White Paper: Preparing for a Fragile Future
Vietnam’s long-awaited defense white paper was finally released late last month. One of the most important official documents on defense and military strategy, it elaborates on the overall principles and guidelines for protecting the Vietnamese homeland for the next 10 years. Given the rapidly evolving security challenges Vietnam has been faced with in the last decade and the difficulty it has had in balancing between the China and the United States, it is worth the effort to decode and interpret this document in order to shed more light on Vietnam’s current and future strategy.

The white paper makes clear that Vietnam considers the Asia-Pacific region, including Southeast Asia, to be not only its own living space, but also “a center for dynamic development” that “occupies an increasingly important geo-economic, geo-politic and geo-strategic” significance. Most importantly, the white paper recognizes the region as a boiling cauldron where great powers compete for influence. China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the U.S. Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy, and India’s Act East policy, among others, are mentioned as mechanisms for those powers to exert control.

For strategic circles in Hanoi, disputes in the South China Sea remain one of the most destabilizing elements that threaten regional stability, peace, and prosperity. More explicitly than ever, the 2019 white paper details what Vietnam has endured on the frontlines of Chinese assertiveness, including “unilateral and power-based coercion, violation of international law, militarization, change in the status-quo and infringement over its sovereignty, sovereignty rights, and jurisdiction.” While it does not call out China by name, it is clear that the white paper reflects fears of Chinese encroachment.

Great power competition is gradually creating a dilemma for Vietnam with regard to its strategic balancing. The new white paper reconfirms and expands upon the principles of this longstanding balancing act. Vietnamese strategists no longer talk about the longstanding “three-nos” policy, but instead a transformed “four-nos and one-depend.” This means no military alliances, no siding with one country against another, no foreign military bases, and no using force or threatening to use force in international relations; but, “depending on circumstances and specific conditions, Vietnam will consider developing necessary, appropriate defense and military relations with other countries.” This new formulation represents the flexibility and resilience long embedded in Vietnam’s foreign policy that was stubbornly put aside by the military apparatus. In theory, “one-depend” officially and significantly expands the spectrum of strategic choices by giving the military more room to maneuver, especially in handling its relationships with Western militaries. Given the inherently cautious and indecisive characteristics of Vietnamese military circles, however, it is unclear how “one-depend” will ultimately be utilized, though it is certainly a positive sign.

The newest “no”—no use or threatening to use force in international relations—reflects another important principle in Vietnam’s overall defense policy: the self-defensive and peaceful characteristics of its defense strategy. The white paper reaffirms the motto of “defending the Homeland from afar,” which includes exhausting all non-military channels to keep the homeland from being threatened in the first place. This is also reflected in its whole-of-nation, or “all-people” defense doctrine, which defines national defense to include “the full spectrum of activities carried out by the Party, the State, and the people, covering political, economic, diplomatic, military, cultural and scientific aspects.” While the armed forces remain “at the core” of this system, the goal of the “all-people” defense doctrine is to use these other capacities to “prevent and push back the risks of war.” The military option is the last line of defense, to be used only when other components of the defense strategy have failed.

The “four-nos and one-depend” will form the foundation of Vietnamese defense and military strategy for the next 10 years. It will also shape Vietnam’s policy toward the South China Sea dispute where the country’s interests are increasingly threatened by China’s “grey zone” tactics. Although Vietnam has stood firm and defended the legitimacy of its claims after recent incidents, it cannot stand alone forever in its struggle against China’s bullying. Giving in to China’s pressure would lead to the country compromising its territorial integrity and sovereignty, which would in turn damage the government’s political legitimacy. Leaning too much toward the United States, however, would anger China, leading to more pressure economically and militarily. Besides, skeptics will say, there is no guarantee that the United States will come to Vietnam’s aid when the situation in the South China Sea goes sour. “Four-nos and one-depend” provides flexibility given a status-quo that is rapidly changing and increasingly unstable.

Regarding the party-military relationship, advocates of military professionalization will be disappointed to learn that political indoctrination will still be a central part of the armed forces and that the military will continue its economic activities through many of its major economic-defense units. The Communist Party of Vietnam continues to exercise “the absolute, direct, and all-round leadership” over the military and themes highlighted in the white paper such as “men before arms” identify “patriotism…political consciousness and steadfastness” as well as “loyalty to the revolutionary cause of the Communist Party” as essential characteristics of the armed forces. This is reflective of an overall slowdown in military modernization and professionalization due to the rise of conservatives in the Party following General-Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s victory in his power struggle with former prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung. Moreover, the white paper suggests the military is highly likely to stick with a Soviet-style organizational structure for the foreseeable future.

Vietnam’s defense white paper is traditionally a very basic guideline regarding military and defense strategy, and is the only guideline the military can deliver publicly. According to several experts who helped form the document, it is part of an effort to make military affairs more transparent in the eyes of the public. Though it is still just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to military strategy, it helps clarify and expand the strategic principles of Vietnam’s defense and military strategy. How to translate that strategic mindset into effective and realistic policies, however, remains an essential question that Vietnam must answer.
Vietnam’s 2019 Defense White Paper: Preparing for a Fragile Future | Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative