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Recommendations for Vietnam to participate in Asean security mechanisms

(LLCT) - Since joining ASEAN, Vietnam has actively participated in, and contributed to ASEAN’s common activities and the creation and strengthening of security frameworks in the region like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Treaty of Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and the Bali Declaration on the principles of mutually beneficial relations. This article provides three policy recommendations for Vietnam to further promote its role when participating in ASEAN security mechanisms in the coming period.

Keywords: ASEAN, Vietnam.

After over 50 years of establishment and development, ASEAN has transformed substantially with the most vivid evidence being the ASEAN Community’s foundation on December 31st, 2015 based on three pillars: the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC), the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). All ASEAN country members agreed that the central role of the community in a regional structure is an essential condition to ensure independence and sovereignty, as well as to maintain a peaceful, stable and developed environment for the countries in the region. To strengthen its pivotal role, ASEAN needs to be a unified organization, with real power and a strong common voice. Even though Vietnam is not a founding member, since joining this regional organization, the country has been developing and actively participating and contributing to ASEAN’s common activities with high responsibility. Vietnam has been much appreciated by other country members. Within ASEAN, Vietnam contributes to the creation and promotion of regional security frameworks such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the Treaty of Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and the Bali Declaration on the principles of mutually beneficial relations.

To further promote the country’s role when participating in ASEAN security mechanisms in the upcoming period, Vietnam needs to:

First, proactively promote the country’s core and leading role in ASEAN, as well as enhance ASEAN’s identity and central position in the Asia-Pacific structure with other country members.

Lately, the international community has observed a significant transformation in the development of ASEAN. During this transformation, Vietnam has contributed significantly to the process of building the ASEAN community and ASEAN’s position in the regional and international arena. In recent years, ASEAN has faced various difficulties and challenges related to the competition with big countries, differences in perceptions, interests, and behaviors. Therefore, Vietnam has strived to consolidate ASEAN’s solidarity and dominant role in regional issues and deal with traditional and non-traditional security challenges as well as emerging issues in relations with other partners. At the same time, Vietnam has promoted practical cooperation in important regional mechanisms and forums initiated and led by ASEAN such as EAS, ADMM+, etc. This means ASEAN has always been one of the top priorities in Vietnam’s foreign policy. In 2020, Vietnam will be the ASEAN Chairman with an escalated tension in the regional situation such as the strategic competition between the US and China, as well as issues in the East Sea. Meanwhile, increasing internal and external issues together with non-traditional security concerns are posing challenges to ASEAN’s solidarity and central role. Therefore, the internal tasks in the country and in the community that Vietnam needs to focus on are being positively and proactively prepared by consulting with experts, scholars, and policy-makers on initiatives that promote ASEAN’s identity and central role in the region; building and consolidating consensus among ministries and departments in the preparation for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020; and exploring opportunities to promote cohesiveness and cooperation between Vietnam’s ministries and sectors with key ASEAN partners in strengthening the role of ASEAN and Vietnam. These actions also help to raise the awareness of Vietnamese people, creating a domestic social consensus to promote efforts in constructing the ASEAN Community. In other words, Vietnam needs to take the initiative role in leading ASEAN to make the community stronger and to increase its regional and global prestige. The year 2020 is also the first year that Vietnam will be the non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. This is a great responsibility for the country. This “dual responsibility” of Vietnam will be a favorable opportunity to help Vietnam promote the strengthening of cooperation between the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organizations including ASEAN. Hence, if Vietnam declares a statement to define ASEAN’s vision in 2020 – which showcases the differences and similarities with the Belt and Road Initiatives of Beijing (BRI) and the Indo-Pacific Initiative of Washington (IPI) – it will attract partners to increase cooperation with the ASEAN community and help strengthen the role of ASEAN, thereby contributing effectively to promoting the role of multilateralism toward peace and regional security.

Second, awareness and responsibility should be raised of the different ministries and departments, especially the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Public Security, in planning and implementing ASEAN security mechanism policies to improve the quality of strategic forecasts.

With their specific functions and tasks, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Public Security play a pivotal role in consulting and implementing foreign policies of the Party and the State when participating in ASEAN security mechanisms. Therefore, these ministries need to thoroughly grasp and properly understand implementation and expand foreign relations with big countries and ASEAN security mechanisms according to the Party and the State’s point of view. These ministries are responsible for their assigned tasks and are also the forces that directly handle foreign relations, including strategic situations and complex issues that emerge when Vietnam joins ASEAN security mechanisms.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Public Security need to promote their responsibility in analyzing, advising and proposing policies and guidelines for the State’s leadership, direction, management, and planning strategies, providing scientific arguments, and proposing policies and solutions to the Central Executive Committee, the Politburo, the Secretariat, the National Assembly and the Government for handling external relations issues to effectively participate in ASEAN security mechanisms. According to the specific functions and tasks of each ministry, it is necessary to take measures to control the activities of embassies and foreigners buying land and houses, residing, working, and traveling in Vietnam legally and prevent them from taking advantage of disrupting the country’s situation. The ministries need to well implement anti-espionage measures and ensure national security and secrets. Besides, it is essential to promote the role of Vietnamese embassies, consulates, agencies, organizations, and oversea Vietnamese in the years Vietnam undertakes important roles. Especially in the major international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and the WTO, which directly or indirectly relate to the ASEAN security mechanisms, it is necessary to have thorough thoughts and foreign policies of the Party and the State, to firmly grasp the situation, and to take advantage of international support, as well as the help of politicians from major countries, to limit negative impacts and handle problems arise. Overseas Vietnamese and overseas scholars and labors, especially in major countries, are an important force in expanding Vietnam’s external relations when participating in ASEAN security mechanisms. Therefore, the role of this force must be promoted.

To develop appropriate strategies and policies to help Vietnam strengthen its role when participating in ASEAN security mechanisms, it is essential to improve the quality of strategic forecasts. The Political Report at the 12th Party Congress noted: “The work of forecasting, planning and leading the organization to implement the Party and State’s policies as well as the efficiency of state management and social development management are still inadequate”. This also indicates that the “forecasting capacity is still limited which can lead to many inappropriate guidelines, policies, and solutions”. Therefore, advancing the quality of forecasting is very important(1). At the congress, the Party also determined the importance of enhancing practical summarization, theoretical research, accurate and timely forecasting, and effective guidelines and policies to handle issues, as well as increasing quality of forecasting the situation and promoting analyses, strategic forecasts, and external advisories(2).

The authorities performing these tasks must aware of the importance of strategic forecasting in the new situation, promoting researching, promptly providing scientific arguments for the Party and the State to develop appropriate guidelines and policies to improve the quality of forecasts, and creating favorable conditions for the officials performing these duties. It is necessary to create a unified and breakthrough change in awareness of people with duties about the position, role, and the importance of strategic forecast research, starting with the leaders, commanders, and advisers. Then the employees who directly perform researching and forecasting strategies should also be made aware.

Changing strategic forecast thinking is an urgent issue because each development era requires innovation in the system of knowledge, reason, and creativity. The basis for the innovation starts from education and training talents in national defense, security and foreign affairs. Vietnam has to focus on accelerating the process of building hi-tech parks and proactively participate in the construction process of parks that effectively utilize software and technology as strategic solutions to approach the 4th Industrial Revolution. Thereby, it is possible to discover and train talents for strategic forecast work in defense, security and foreign affairs fields.

The content of strategic forecasting must include analysis and assessment of the development and movement’s trend and favorable and unfavorable conditions for the development of the world, the region, and the country. Then, project what might happen and change the current political landscape and security of the region and the world. Factors affecting regional and world security, global and regional emerging traditional and non-traditional security challenges that impact national security and national interests, especially of large countries should also be considered. The forecast results are the scientific basis for ministries to accurately assess the situation, take the initiative to advise the Party and the State in successfully handling situations, avoid being under the passive, unexpected situations, especially in strategic directions and key areas. At the same time, focus on directing the organization, understanding, analyzing, and forecasting international and regional situations, especially the policies and strategies’ changes of major or neighboring countries that affect Vietnam’s national interests and security; international and domestic factors altering the national protection of security and order, especially the conspiracy and hostile forces’ “peaceful evolution” against Vietnam; security and order in strategic areas, key cities, border areas, sea, and islands; the sign of changes and transformation in the political system; and law-breaking and non-traditional security threats. These forecasts are significant contributions and guidelines for the Party and the State to promptly respond and solve challenges to firmly ensure political security, social order, and safety in all situations.

Furthermore, it is necessary to improve the capacity of strategic forecasting officials. The people who are in charge of strategic forecasting research must be researchers with practical experience and scientific thinking and who are capable of analyzing, summarizing, evaluating, and forecasting. Therefore, the state consulting agencies should expand their networks to international strategic research agencies and independent research centers for reference, experience, exchange of information, and evaluation of the economics, politics and security of the global and regional situation. Not only that, it is also needed to consolidate the organization and improve the qualifications, capacity, and performance of strategic consulting agencies. Studying and forecasting strategies must be done to create theoretical and practical results, helping the Party and the State to timely and accurately set guidelines and policies at a macro level. Training courses must be organized regularly to improve the qualifications of strategic forecast researchers and maximize the role and potential of staff at all levels and localities. Adopt appropriate policies to create resources and effectively utilize the new resources, especially high-quality intellectual resources in the fields of national defense, security, and foreign affairs and young human resources in the country as well as Vietnamese overseas.

Develop a mechanism to coordinate the implementation of research and strategic forecasts to mobilize participation and tight coordination between levels and sectors, especially between the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, and the Ministry of Finance. Once these relevant ministries and agencies cooperate closely with each other in researching, evaluating and forecasting sentiments, then there are accurate predictions and satisfactory solutions for macro-level policies and strategies for national construction and protection, especially in ensuring the connections among policies and strategies for socio-economic development, national defense, security, and foreign affairs. Besides, the Government’s budget estimates must spend a proportion of research and strategic forecasting in ministries, departments, and localities annually. Strengthen coordination with the strategic research agencies of the concerned ministries, departments, and localities to exchange experiences, share information and enhance knowledge in the strategic forecasting research process. Avoid conflicts in the recommendations, confusing information, and data projection among ministries and departments, especially for the general situation.

Third, continue promoting Vietnam’s role in bilateral and multilateral relations, effectively implement international commitments, and work with countries in ASEAN to demonstrate a central role in security and cooperation structure in the Asia-Pacific region.

Strengthening Vietnam’s bilateral relationships with other countries is an important requirement and measure to enhance Vietnam’s position and prestige in international integration. Such enhancing must contribute to “[ensuring] the supreme national interests on the basis of fundamental principles of international law, equality and mutual benefit; consistently implement the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, multilateralization and diversification of external relations, and proactive and positive international integration; and be a friend, reliable partner and responsible member of the international community”(3). Therefore, Vietnam needs to promote and strengthen relations with partners, especially strategic partners for the country’s economic and security development, bring the established relationships into reality, and create mutual benefits between Vietnam and partners.

Within the framework of ASEAN’s security mechanisms, in addition to relations with China and the US, Vietnam must have strong relations with major countries such as Russia, India, Japan, and the EU. Currently, Russia, India, Japan, and the EU are making strategic adjustments. These entities have had good relations with ASEAN and Vietnam. In the coming years, it is necessary to implement policies to balance relations between major countries, increase the strength and power of ASEAN and Vietnam during the trend of cooperation, compromise, competition, and restraint between major countries. Particularly, Vietnam needs to handle relations with China and the US.

In regional and multilateral cooperation issues, Vietnam is required to coordinate more in regional forums such as APEC, ARF, ADMM+, and EAS, including regional issues such as security and maritime safety, strengthening ASEAN solidarity, promoting ASEAN’s central role, and implementing the US-ASEAN strategic partnership and other global issues such as countering terrorism, coping with climate changes, food security, energy and water resources, and transnational crimes.

ASEAN is an indispensable partner in the cooperation mechanism of major countries as well as economic organizations in Asia and the Pacific. In relation to major countries, ASEAN is one of the important partners, especially when the Asia-Pacific region is considered a dynamic development area with a strong rise in the 21st century. ASEAN has been chosen as an intermediary mechanism for resolving regional issues. Most major countries in the Asia-Pacific region are participating in ASEAN mechanisms such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), the ASEAN Conference (ASEAN+), East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia Security Summit (Shangri La Dialogue), etc. The ASEAN mechanisms are considered to be the “framework” for building a security structure in the Asia-Pacific region. Currently, ASEAN’s partners in the Asia-Pacific region, especially large countries like China and the US, all want ASEAN to play a central and proactive role as a key driver in the Asia-Pacific structure. This is a favorable condition for Vietnam to promote its “dual responsibility” in 2020.

Vietnam also needs to be more proactive in promoting the effectiveness of ASEAN’s relations with major countries, like the ASEAN+1 mechanism with 10 official dialogue partners. This is the oldest, most complete, important and most effective mechanism of ASEAN in dealing with each major country and partner, creating equal dialogue for ASEAN with large countries, gaining resources for development in most fields, getting respect from major countries, and imposing ASEAN’s will on major countries. Meanwhile, other important mechanisms include the ASEAN+3 mechanism providing dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and the three major countries in Northeast Asia (China, Japan, and South Korea); the East Asia High-Level Mechanism (EAS), which is an ASEAN+ mechanism with 8 major countries; and the mechanism of establishing ASEAN Committees in capitals of major countries to coordinate actions and deal with relations with these countries.



(1), (2) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.150, 156.


(3) CPV: Documents of the 12th National Congress, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2016, p.153.

Assoc Prof., Dr. Thai Van Long

Institute of International Relations,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics

Nguyen Thi Hue

Academy of Politics Region I

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