The Vietnamese deputy minister of defense told Tuoi Tre the Vietnamese government does not want to internationalize sea issues between Vietnam and China and that Vietnam does not seek third-party help over such issues.
In an interview with Tuoi Tre Thursday, deputy minister of defense Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh affirmed “we establish relations with every country, especially big ones. Vietnam is developing and so it is a must to have relations with big countries”.
With our current position, many countries want to enhance relationship with Vietnam, from cooperation in small fields to all-rounded cooperations. We ourselves also want to cooperate with them.
The point is when an all-rounded cooperation is in place, trust is of the utmost importance – defense relation is one of the pillars to maintain this trust.
Specially, how can trust be manifested in connection with the East Sea issues?
Regarding differences and disputes in the East Sea, trust is the critical factor that brings about legitimate interests and fairness for all parties. First, trust must be based on interests.
We of course must protect our own interests but must also acknowledge other countries’ interests in order to create mutual trust.
Second, international laws must be obeyed. If one country acts or speaks in contravention of international laws, that country cannot be trusted.
Third, transparency is a must. Those who hide are those who have problems. When we are right, when we have the law on our side, we fear nothing.
But it does not mean that trust once created will last forever. All parties must enhance trust through concrete actions.
Recently, there have been mixed public response about Vietnam’s actions regarding East Sea issues. Specifically, international opinions state that Vietnam is luring a third party to act as a counterpoise. Others claim that Vietnam wants to negotiate secretly with a third party, what do you think?
Those are opinions that do not take into account the whole, comprehensive picture. They lack a systematic insight into our foreign policy.
For example, we enhance relations with many different countries at the same time and it is natural that some of those countries have conflicting interests. But out of our independence in policy, Vietnam’s relationships with other countries do not depend on any other outside party and we don’t mind when one relationship affects another relationship.
Why is it so? Because in all of our relationships, we have one common principle: relationship between Vietnam and another country does not harm the interest of a third country. So in dialogues with other countries, we never talk ill behind the back of another country.
If you are not good, we will talk directly to you and will not talk about it to a third party.
We establish relations with every country, especially big ones. Vietnam is developing and so it is a must to have relations with big countries.
Within the framework of the recent visit of Vietnam’s Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to China, two sides have signed a joint statement on basic principles governing settlement of sea issues. Which steps will the defense ministry carry out to contribute to implementing this joint statement?
On the outside of it, we see this joint statement is a success in Vietnam-China relation. It can be seen right away that the statement serves to calm the situation, relieve stress triggered by differences and conflicts over the East Sea.
This statement reasserts both sides’ determination to solve East Sea issues via peaceful means with recourse to international laws.
We affirm our independence and responsibility when we say that all matters will be solved based on international laws, specifically 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, based on respecting the interests of each party, specifically DOC (Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea) and must be transparent.
For those in the defense sector, this is a big success in that we have agreed on the common path. We should not look at details but at the whole picture.
Based on the agreement, two sides will continue to enhance defense relations, in exchanging visits at all levels, increasing training cooperationâ¦
We will seek ways to step by step solve sea issues on the basis of international laws and mutual consent. I emphasize: international laws and mutual consent.
If two sides agree based only on international laws and not on mutual consent, it is impossible. Conversely, any agreement based just on mutual consent irrespective of international laws is also not possible.
Especially, both sides must strictly pledge not to resort to force or the threat of force.
At the ASEAN defense ministers’ meeting, were there any opinions regarding any aspect of the joint statement?
All expressed desires to better understand the statement because this is related to their interests – those that claim sovereignty in connection with the East Sea and those that have interests related to the East Sea.
I have notified the heads of delegations about the main spirits of the statement. All delegations heads highly appreciated this agreement in that Vietnam has responsibility over their interests and the region’s interests.
Can you tell us more about two aspects of the agreement: regarding the establishment of a hotline between two defense ministers of China and Vietnam and the joint Vietnam-China patrols on land border?
Those two aspects have been agreed upon in an earlier agreement between the two defense ministries. They are being carried out and included again in this recent joint statement.
Technical works are being carried out to set up the hotline. This bears a significant meaning because two defense ministers will be able directly exchange information any time.
Vietnam and China have already conducted joint patrols on sea and naval ships from both countries have made visits to the other country.
You have mentioned the principle of not resorting to violence and threat of violence. But in reality, a number of news agencies in China have published opinions that do not respect this principle, even threatening to use force against Vietnam and the Philippines. What do you think?
First, I don’t think such opinions are official and I don’t consider them serious. A country as big as China with a huge population is apt to have different, diverse opinions. Official standpoints have been established in the joint statement agreed by top leaders of both sides.
I believe that such threatening opinions will dwindle, first through measures of two Parties. Two governments will not let such opinions appear on official newspapers.
With time, when we have built trust, when we have found a common path to solve differences, the Chinese themselves and even those who currently harbor such violence-prone thoughts will see that they should not have said so because no one will support them. Not only do we condemn them but at that time, the Chinese themselves will also condemn them.
Have you heard of some opinions related to your statement “Vietnam has no intention to internationalize issues between Vietnam and China” and your statement about the policy “to handle the mass gathering of people in Vietnam [those who gather in front of the Chinese Embassy and Consulate in Vietnam to protest] with the aim of not letting such incidents occur in the future”?
Regarding the mass gathering, what I said is only within the boundary of the government’s instructions. At the first mass gathering when I was in Singapore attending the 10th Shangri La Dialogue (June, 2011), I stated my personal opinion that such gatherings were not advised because they would not solve anything.
I think that those who gather are patriotic. But we have other ways to express our patriotism. Such mass gatherings do not lead to any result but affect political security not only in regards to foreign but also domestic policies. Such incidents should stop.
Regarding Vietnam’s policy not to internationalize Vietnam-China issues, that information is correct. Issues with China must be resolved with China. We cannot and need not seek outside help.
My full statement is “not to internationalize Vietnam-China issues. But despite the nature of the bilateral issues, we must all follow international laws and be transparent. For issues on the international scale like security, marine security we must solve them on an international scale. Issues that have more than two countries involved or multilateral issues must have a multilateral solution”.
In the past two months, you have had many official visits to foreign countries. Which trip had the most impression on you?
In general, all trips brought about results I deem satisfactory including trips to China, the US, India, Cubaâ¦but the visit to India with President Truong Tan Sang left in me the deepest impression.
In India, I see that all people from the top leaders to the common people have good opinions of Vietnam and they also understand Vietnam.