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Vietnam’s international integration in national defense and security

(LLCT) - International integration in defense and security is the consistent guideline and strategic policy of Vietnam with the goals of promoting bilateral and active cooperation, actively participating in multilateral mechanisms on defense and security as a friend, a reliable partner and responsible member of the international community, and considering it a strategy for protecting the nation and preventing conflict through peaceful means.

Key words: international integration; defense, security, national protection.

Entering the 21th century, globalization and international integration has become an objective trend. Vietnam has had the proper awareness thereof and clearly showed political determination in preparing material and spiritual conditions so that active and positive international integration could be accomplished in an effective manner.

International integration in defense and security is an integral part of Vietnam’s effort to join the international community, and is also its strategic guideline and policy. This matches the tendency of the era and reflects the law of development. Intergration benefits not only Vietnam, but also other countries in ASEAN and in the world. Our international integration in defense and security expresses humanity, peace, self-defense, and justice as the nature of the Vietnamese nation. The rightness, creativity and effectiveness of international integration of Vietnam in national defense and security have been theoretically and practically affirmed.

1. Vietnam’s process of international integration in defense and security

The context of Vietnam’s participation in international integration

At the end of the 20th century, the Cold War ended, and the world transformed from a bi-polar confrontation into a multi-polar, multi-centered one. There have been numerous rapid and unpredictable changes to the security structure and environment in the world and in the region since then. The challenges posed by the interwoven traditional and non-traditional security are complex. The competition for power and influence among the powerful countries is fierce and manifests in “both cooperation and struggle”, in “both competition and compromise”. Countries in the world seek to strengthen their military might, defense capabilities, and security potential by adjusting their organizational structure and military strategy in the direction of modernizing their forces and increasing their combat effectiveness, etc. In such a context, they have the needs to push up defense and security cooperation in order to deal with new security challenges and protect national independence, sovereignty, social order, safety, and security.

Understanding the changes in the world and the objective duty to protect the nation, thus, early in these new historical conditions, Vietnam realized the necessity to participate in international integration in defense and security actively and proactively. There are a lot of opportunities for national renewal. However, there are also serious risks and challenges facing Vietnam, especially the interwoven traditional and non-traditional security threats to the nation’s existence. The increasingly fierce competition for power among the powerful countries, escalating dispute on the East Sea, and unstable security in the world and in the region - especially the violent opposition of “peaceful evolution” contrived by hostile forces - have had serious influence on the cause of renovating, building and protecting the Vietnamese nation. The imperative but difficult task is to protect the nation well while keeping peace and stability so that the country can develop sustainably.

Vietnam advocates to improve the effectiveness of its diplomatic activities, integrate itself actively and positively into the world in order to maintain a peaceful and stable environment, and make full use of external resources to develop the country and improve people’s living standard. Vietnam is determined and persistent in protecting its independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity. Additionally, it wishes to keep peace, national independence, democracy and social progress. At the same time, Vietnam participates in multilateral defense and security mechanisms. These include participation in the defense and security cooperation activities at higher levels, such as the United Nations (UN) peace keeping, international exercises in non-traditional security and charitable activities in compliance with the conditions of Vietnam and international law.

Thus, at the beginning of the 21st century, from the policy of international economic integration, Vietnam continued expanding its integration into other fields, including defense and security. This is a new step of development in its awareness and practical guidance for diplomatic activities, which clearly reflects the nature of humanity, including peace, self-defense and justice of the Vietnamese defense and security system in the new situation.

Vietnam’s awareness of international integration in defense and security

Vietnam advocates international integration in the direction of building and deploying the defense and security integration strategy in compliance with protecting the nation, ensuring national security, and exploiting external resources and country’s international position effectively to protect the country. In order to follow this direction, Vietnam has identified major policies on defense and security diplomacy as follows: (1) promoting the bilateral cooperation activities in defense and security with neighboring countries, ASEAN members, powers, traditional friends, step by step making the international cooperation in defense and security profound and effective and (2) taking part in the multilateral mechanisms of defense and security of which Vietnam is a responsible member, especially those in the framework of ASEAN and led by ASEAN. Vietnam builds and deploys the plan to participate in other multilateral mechanisms for its own benefit, where Vietnam takes part in the cooperation activities at a higher level. This includes participation in UN peace keeping missions, control over proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, joint military exercises and charitable activities. These activities meet the requirements of protecting the nation ahead of time for the common benefit: keeping world peace and enabling social progress.

In terms of target: International integration in defense and security seeks to protect the national independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity, defend national interests, maintain the stable and peaceful environment, create favorable condition for the international integration in other fields, and build and develop the country.

In terms of viewpoint: International integration and defense diplomacy is the appropriate strategic direction to protect the Fatherland ahead of time with peaceful means when the country is not yet in jeopardy. International integration and defense diplomacy should be implemented bilaterally and multilaterally, and integration in defense and security should be made more and more extensive, stable, developed, practical, and effective.

Through international integration in defense and security, strategic trust is strengthened, the peaceful and mutually developed cooperative environment is maintained, and the national defense and security disposition is consolidated. Vietnam should be proactive, active, sure, flexible, and effective so that it will not fall into an unforeseen situation.

Vietnam promotes its concerted strength and makes use of external resources in its international integration and defense diplomacy. Such integration contributes to the successful foreign policy which shows that Vietnam is a reliable friend, partner, and a responsible member in the international community.

In terms of requirements: Vietnam should clearly work out the roadmap, steps, and objectives of international integration and diplomacy and security defense in accordance with the capability, condition of the country; and the cooperation, association, development tendency of the region and the world. Vietnam also closely combines its international integration with defense and security diplomacy.

In terms of tasks: Vietnam should build and deploy a strategy of international integration and defense and security diplomacy towards 2020 and the following years in accordance with the new conception of national protection. It should also identify the extent of international integration in defense and security in conformity to that of cooperation with specific partners.

Vietnam should actively participate in multilateral defense and security cooperation mechanisms, especially those in which ASEAN plays the key role and join in the multilateral mechanisms for controlling weapons of mass destruction, and other related activities.

Vietnam should closely combine military commerce, military economics, and military technology, as well as defense and security industry with those of defense and security cooperation. It should build a force to directly perform defense diplomacy to meet the international requirements of defense and security in both short and long terms, as well as complete the legal instruments for defense and security diplomacy. Vietnam should also closely instruct the work of ensuring security and safety during the process of international integration and defense diplomacy.

2. Results of international integration in defense and security over the past time

Vietnam’s defense and security cooperation with other countries, especially its strategic partners, has become more and more open, profound, and effective. The bilateral defense relations have expanded, which helps strengthen the solidarity, friendship, mutual trust, understanding between nations. The bilateral agreements also foster cooperation in several fields, prevent conflicts, help deal with the emerging security issues, create conditions for socio-economic development, maintain peace, stabilize politics, and protect the nation ahead of time.

Coordination of land and sea border patrol, cooperation in education and traning, the sharing of military science and technology are the significant fields of the cooperation in defense and security, which have become increasingly effective with outstanding tendency and prospects.

Multilateral defense relations have had great development in terms of quantity, quality and effect. From a limited relationship, Vietnam has participated in all major defense and security cooperation mechanisms of the region such as the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting and other mechanisms for dialogue, defense, and security cooperation.

Vietnam has actively promoted bilateral and multilateral cooperation through initiatives to make the existing cooperative relations more effective. At the same time, it positively builds the new cooperative mechanisms profitable for regional peace and security. Thus, Vietnam’s role to build and implement regional defense and security cooperation mechanisms is much appreciated by the international community.

Vietnam is active in taking part in some global multilateral activities, especially training, and peace keeping, which helps build a strong ASEAN bloc based on concensus. It also serves to protect and maintain the peaceful and stable environment in the region and in the world, thus enhancing its image, prestige, and position and those of its army.

International integration in defense and security creates resources to help directly build the Vietnamese People’s Army into a revolutionary, regular, elite, gradually modernized army, improve its professional qualifications and ability to conduct the defense and security diplomacy of the staff in charge of this field.

Beside the achievements, Vietnam’s international integration in defense and security faces some limitations. Vietnam’s policy of integration is, to some extent, reserved and unconfident although it is beneficial. The system of legal instruments is amended slowly, and there is a lack of legal basis for implementation. Research and other professional capabilities in some agencies and units are not strong.

The reasons for the above limitations are as follows: (1) the international integration policy on defense and security is still not synchronous, and the awareness of it, to some extent, fails to meet the demand of the practice of international integration. That is a hindrance to implementation of a policy with positive and active international integration in defense and security. (2) In terms of material, technology, and human resource conditions for Vietnamese diplomacy in general and especially defense/security diplomacy, the capabilities of the nation are still limited, and, to some extent, fail to catch up with the country’s integration process and international integration in defense and security.

3. Viewpoints and orientations for international integration in defense

and security

In further grasping of the Politburo’s Resolution No. 22 dated December 2013 on international integration, Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW of the Central Military Commission, Ministry of National Defense on international integration and defense diplomacy towards 2020 and the following years, the following view points have been identified: international integration in defense and security is the scheme to protect the country ahead of time with peaceful means. Integration strengthens strategic trust, maintains the peaceful and stable environment, allows for cooperation and mutual development, and further consolidates the defense and security disposition of Vietnam. It also exploits the strong points of the country, improves the position of Vietnam in the international arena, and at the same time, makes full use of external resources in the process of international integration in defense and security.

Some major directions of defense and security integration are identified as follows:

Promoting cooperation and bilateral defense and security relationships, indentifying bilateral relation as the focus of defense and security relations with other countries, in which Vietnam gives priority to the neighbouring countries with shared borders. Vietnam also appreciates ASEAN, as it strengthens and develops relationships with other powers and traditional friends. It continues to expand relations and establish cooperation mechanisms with new partners in conformity with its fundamental and long-term potential and benefit.

Vietnam also emphasizes high-level contact on border issues such as managing and protecting borderlines and markers, exchanges in border areas, twinning of villages and border posts, embellishing and increasing markers, fighting against cross-border criminals, and preventing illegal border crossing and migration.

Vietnam pushes the cooperation of its naval and coast guard forces. It expands the mechanisms for consultation, joint patrols, educational cooperation for the military staffs, research, transfer of military science and technology, military economics and defense industry development cooperation.

Vietnam will resolutely deny establishing relationship and cooperation with countries and international organizations which would have negative impact on the third entity, as well as take part in similar international institutions. Vietnam will not carry out such defense and security diplomatic activities under any conditions or pressure.

Vietnam takes a positive and active part in building ASEAN into a strong community, maintains consensus, and strengthens the key role of ASEAN in regional security issues. Vietnam also contributes more to forming multilateral defense and security institutions within ASEAN and mechanisms, or forums in which ASEAN will play the key role.

Vietnam will play an active and positive role in UN peace keeping activities. It continues to support the role of the UN in the struggle for disarmament, the fight against arms races, the prevention of and solutions to disputes and conflicts by peaceful means, and protection of nations’ independence and self determinatiom. Vietnam keeps on expanding the form and scale of UN peace keeping activities.

Vietnam will participate actively and positively in multilateral defense and security mechanisms of which it is a responsible member, especially those in the scope of ASEAN and led by ASEAN. It is necessary to develop and deploy plans to join other multilateral mechanisms for the sake of Vietnam, in which, Vietnam will participate in cooperative activities at a higher level. These activities include participation in UN peace keeping, control over proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, joint military exercises, charitable activities, etc., which meet the requirements of protecting the nation ahead of time and from afar, and make the defense and security cooperation relations stronger for shared benefits.

Through international integration in defense and security, the strategic trust is strengthened and consolidated, a peaceful environment and mutually developed cooperation are maintained, and the defense and security disposition between Vietnam and other countries is enhanced. Vietnam will create favourable conditions for international integration in other fields, making the international integration in defense and security and that in other fields an integral part in the national foreign strategy.

Three breakthroughs in international integration and diplomacy in defense and security are (a) to build and consolidate the peaceful, friendly, cooperative, and mutually developed relations with Laos, Cambodia, and China; (b) to actively, positively, and effectively participate in the UN peace keeping activities in accordance with the policies of the Party and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, (c) to strengthen the foreign-language and professional training and education for the staff of the People’s Army of Vietnam.

Vietnam closely combines the activities of military commerce, economy, technology, the defense and security industry, and those of defense and security cooperation into a unified whole. It should build up a force directly performing defense diplomacy tasks to meet the international requirements of defense and security in the short and long term, as well as completing the legal document system for defense and security diplomacy. It also closely instructs the work of ensuring safety during the process of international integration and defense diplomacy.

In addition to general diplomacy, international integration in defense and security helps build a strong ASEAN bloc with concensus to protect and maintain a peaceful and stable environment in the region and in the world, enhance the prestige of Vietnam and its army in Southeast Asia and globally. Accordingly, the support of the international community for the cause of building and defending the Socialist Republic of Vietnam can be ensured.

Together with international relations and cooperation, international integration in defense and security creates resources to help directly build the People’s Army and People’s Public Security of Vietnam into revolutionary, regular, elite, gradually modernized forces, strengthens the fighting power of the army and the public security forces, enhances the defense and security power of the country, and improves the professional qualifications of, and the ability to operate and organize the diplomatic activities of the Vietnamese diplomatic staffs in charge of defense and security.

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1. CPV: Documents of the 12th National Party Congress, Office of the Party Central Committee, Hanoi, 2016.

2. People’s Army of VN: Question and answer document of the 10th Army Party Congress, term 2015-2020, People’s Army Publishing House, Hanoi, 2015.

3. Ministry of National Defense: Vietnam Defense White Book, Hanoi, 2009.

4. Dr. Dinh The Huynh, Prof., Dr. Phung Huu Phu, Prof., Dr. Le Huu Nghia, Prof. Dr. Vu Van Hien, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Viet Thong (Co-editors): 30 years of innovation and development in Vietnam, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016.

5. General Ngo Xuan Lich: Building the Military Party Committee to meet the new mission, People’s Army Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016.

Major General, Assoc. Prof., Dr. Nguyen Ba Duong

Institute of Military Social Sciences and Humanities,

Ministry of National Defense

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