Vietnam denies participation in joint military drills 


A senior military official squashes rumors that Vietnam participated in a US-Thai military exercise

Deputy Defense Minister Lieutenant Colonel Nguyen Chi Vinh says Vietnam has no intention of joining the Cobra Gold joint military exercise in Thailand. Meanwhile, he said that Vietnam will reinforce defense cooperation and is preparing to join the United Nations Peacekeeping Commission.

Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh has rejected claims about Vietnam’s participation in the Cobra Gold 2011 military drill in Thailand (from February 7-18). Vinh has said that Vietnam doesn’t have any intention of joining another military exercise.

“This year, Vietnam didn’t send participants to the [Cobra Gold] military exercise,” Defense Ministry-owned Quan Doi Nhan Dan (People’s Army) newspaper quoted Lieutenant General Vinh as saying on Wednesday (February 16). “It is wrong to say Vietnam sent its people to prepare battle strategies [in the exercise],” he was quoted as saying. “I wonder where it came from. This incorrect information could mislead the public about Vietnam’s policy.”

Vinh was denying rumors that had surfaced suggesting Vietnam would join the other participating nations in formulating a regional battle plan.   

Count us out

The Cobra Gold exercise, hosted annually by Thailand, was launched in 1982 as a bilateral effort between the US and Thai militaries. It was promoted as a multi-national exercise in 2000, when Singapore joined, and has since grown to become one of the largest land-based, combined military training exercises in the world.

Cobra Gold 2011 was officially kicked off on February 7 in Thailand’s north-eastern province of Chiang Mai.

Besides hosts US and Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and Singapore are participating in the exercise that will be observed by military teams from China, India, Sri Lanka, Laos, Brunei, Russia, Mongolia, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

Vinh said Vietnam joined the exercise for the first time in 2003, as an observer, but has not regularly participated in the annual event since then.

“The purpose of Vietnam’s participation was to observe military exercises of other countries,” he said.

Recently, speaking in Malaysia, US Navy Adm., Patrick Walsh, Commander of the US Pacific Command, expressed the intention of inviting Vietnam to join the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) military exercise with the US and some other countries in the region.

However, Vinh said that Vietnam has not received an official invitation nor studied the military exercise.

“I want to stress again that Vietnam is not participating in any [joint] military exercise,” he said. “In the near future, Vietnam will only join joint humanitarian exercises like deactivating landmines.”

Peacekeepers to be

Vinh confirmed that the country has “actively” prepared to become a member of the United Nations Peacekeeping Commission as well as integrating with the international defense community.

He said that Vietnam has expressed its willingness to join the UN peacekeeping force at the right time and this would help the country improve its position and study various issues around the world.

Vinh said that Vietnam began preparing to join the UN force some four years ago, by training personnel, securing government approval and seeking for investment, “because the country is still poor.”

Any international military participation will be purely humanitarian, he stressed.

“Vietnam’s policy is not to send its peacekeepers to places where there are conflicts,” he said.

Vinh said that a new “security structure” was formed during the first ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (Plus Eight) in 2010 when many countries from outside the region joined the bloc. The Vietnamese army has participated in the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) and other defense conferences of the Southeast Asian bloc, he added.

In defense cooperation, Vietnam will boost current bilateral and multilateral relations, especially defense forums like the ADMMs, Vinh said.

“Vietnam will actively contribute to ASEAN, first and foremost for its own benefit,” he said. Vinh claimed that Vietnam’s participation would improve its international image, help modernize its army and help protect its sovereignty in the region and the world.

Asked about how Vietnam would contribute to ASEAN in solving the conflict between two members in the bloc – Thailand and Cambodia – that has recently flared up near the disputed Preah Vihear temple, Vinh said Indonesia (ASEAN’s 2011 Chair) and all members should help find solutions to maintain peace and stability in the region.

The disputes should be solved through peaceful negotiations that comply with international laws, he said.

US to help Vietnam forecast Mekong dam impacts 

Vietnamese and US representatives signed an MOU on scientific and technical cooperation in earth sciences and managing natural resources in Hanoi on Friday.

The United States plans to implement a project to help Vietnam forecast impacts of upstream dams on the Mekong River on downstream areas, the Saigon Tiep Thi reported Saturday.


The project is part of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on scientific and technical cooperation in earth sciences and managing natural resources in the context of climate change signed between the two countries Friday in Hanoi, the news website said.


It quoted US Assistant Secretary of the Inferior for Water and Science, Anne Castle, as saying that US Geological Survey is building a model of hydrography for the river which will help forecast impacts developments on marine life and the environment, as well as aquaculture practices.


This will be a useful tool for policy makers to decide the dos and don’ts in development projects, Castle said.


The MOU was signed at the seventh meeting of the Joint US-Vietnam Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the US Department of Interior, according to a press release issued by the American Embassy.


Marking the 10th anniversary of the signing of the Agreement on Scientific and Technological Cooperation, this year’s joint committee also featured a special workshop on incubating and other scientific and technology based enterprises, the press release said.


 “The US Department of the Interior is supporting the countries’ joint efforts to further earth science studies and better understand the impacts of climate change by sharing our knowledge and best practices,” Castle said in the statement.


Over 50 representatives from the US government, research organizations, universities and private sector attended the workshiop, while the Vietnamese delegation included over 40 government officials, scientists and researchers.

A new chapter 

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks at a luncheon in Hanoi in July. Her back-to-back visits to Vietnam this year articulated the rising US commitment to bilateral relations.

Hillary Clinton’s back-to-back visits to Hanoi articulated the rising US commitment to US-Vietnam relations. Clinton’s recent announcement “The US is back in Southeast Asia,” struck a chord of surprise for many in the region.

In his farewell interview with Thanh Nien Weekly, departing US Ambassador Michael W. Michalak speaks broadly of the new cooperation between the two countries. The US has publicly opposed the damming of the Mekong River and Michalak articulates an emerging US position toward the Lower Mekong River Basin.

Michalak will leave Vietnam for his next assignment in the first week of January 2011.

Thanh Nien Weekly: How do you view your term as US Ambassador to Vietnam in the scope of your long career as a diplomat?

Michael W. Michalak: My experience as Ambassador to Vietnam has been one of the most interesting and rewarding experiences of my life, and certainly of my 30-plus years with the Department of State. Being able to play a role in moving beyond our painful past and building a strong partnership has been a tremendous honor.

What effects will the damming of the Mekong River in China, Laos and Cambodia have on the Mekong Delta?

During her visit to Hanoi (in October), Secretary of State Clinton discussed the potential impact of proposed dams on the mainstream of the Mekong River with her Lower Mekong Initiative partners in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam. The Secretary recommended a pause before major construction continues and said the US would sponsor a study of the issue. Hydropower development on the Mekong mainstream is an issue of concern, as recent studies show that even one dam could cause irreparable damage to the complex ecosystem of the Mekong River Basin and pose an immediate and long-term threat to the food security and livelihoods of millions. For Vietnam, upstream dams will reduce water and sediment flows, resulting in saltwater intrusion, soil erosion, and decreased soil fertility, threatening agriculture and aquaculture productivity. The Mekong Delta is Vietnam’s “rice basket,” and Vietnam is the world’s number two rice exporter. This issue has consequences for global food security.

US Ambassador Michael W. Michalak

If these dams are built, how will they impact the livelihoods of those living in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and in other lower Mekong countries? How will the residents of the Mekong Delta survive if they can no longer make a living farming and fishing?

It is critical to address the livelihoods of the 20 million Mekong Delta residents in Vietnam, 85 percent of whom rely on agricultural activities. The Delta has a higher GDP than the national average—10.2 perent growth in 2008, compared with 7-8 percent national growth. What’s more, Delta rice production accounts for 60 percent of the country’s total export turnover.

While some research is currently underway about adapting agricultural practices to address increased water salinity, for example, more is needed. The US’s Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) addresses education and environment among its four pillars. The DRAGON (Delta Research and Global Observation Network) Institute at Can Tho University, jointly established by the US and Vietnamese governments in 2008, continues to research Delta ecosystems and sustainable river deltas in the context of climate change.

Do you have any suggestions to promote more effective cooperation between the members of the Mekong River Commission?

In 2009, the US joined with Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam to launch the LMI. These four countries also make up the Mekong River Commission. The purpose of the LMI is to enhance cooperation on issues of regional importance.

One of the ways we have pursued this is through the sister-river partnership between the Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission. The Mekong River Commission and the Mississippi River Commission both play key roles in managing waterways that are vital to the livelihoods of millions of people. The sister-river partnership enables the two bodies to cooperate and share expertise and best practices in areas such as climate change adaptation, flood and drought management, hydropower impact assessment, water demand, and food security.

Data-sharing among the countries of the Mekong River Basin is key to finding sustainable ways to develop the basin. Last December, the US Geological Survey and Can Tho University brought together scientists and experts from throughout the region to share information on how climate change and human activities could impact the ecology and food security of the basin.

The US remains committed to forging fruitful, long-term ties to all four Mekong River Basin countries.

The recent visits of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton further strengthened the commitment of Vietnam and the US to ambitious cooperation in the areas of climate change, education, business, security and nuclear energy. Could you please give us more specific details regarding this cooperation?

The two visits by Secretary Clinton to Hanoi, less than four months apart, demonstrate the importance of the US-Vietnam relationship. In just 15 years, the scale of bilateral cooperation has increased dramatically in several areas, particularly in terms of trade, education and security.

During Secretary Clinton’s visit, she witnessed the signing of two very significant commercial agreements—between Vietnam Airlines and Boeing, and between Microsoft and the Ministry of Information and Communications.

Education has been another of my top priorities as Ambassador. And I’m very happy to say that in three years, the number of Vietnamese studying in the US has nearly tripled.

However, let me be clear: there is much work to be done. I agree with those Vietnamese who say that educational reform is key to taking Vietnam to the next developmental level, and the US looks forward to working with Vietnam as it takes the necessary, tough steps to strengthen its educational system.

Both Secretary of Defense Gates, who participated in October’s ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus Summit, and Secretary of State Clinton reaffirmed the US government’s interest in deepening security cooperation with Vietnam. Specifically, the US and Vietnam agreed to work bilaterally and through regional institutions such as ASEAN to address such challenges as humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, search and rescue, maritime security, and peacekeeping.

Our two countries also agreed to deepen cooperation in military education and exchanges. It is an area that has developed at a deliberate pace, but one that has great potential and is very important to maintain peace, prosperity, and stability in the region.

On nuclear energy, the US and Vietnam concluded a general Memorandum of Understanding on civilian nuclear cooperation in March. We have not yet opened formal negotiations on the 123 agreement, but we look forward to doing so.

Climate change is an issue both the US and Vietnam take very seriously, which is why we established a joint working group to deal with this global threat. Vietnam is one of the countries that will be most severely impacted by rising sea levels caused by climate change, and we applaud it for its pro-active response.

What do you consider the most significant changes and improvements to the bilateral relationship during your term as US Ambassador to Vietnam?

I think the most significant progress in the bilateral relationship has been made in three areas: our trading partnership, educational exchanges, and security cooperation. Secretary Clinton, in fact, recently said the progress made in our relationship has been “breathtaking.”

New prospects for long-term cooperation with Qatar, Kuwait

LookAtVietnam – PM Nguyen Tan Dung returned to Hanoi on March 12, concluding his first official visits to Qatar and Kuwait. The trip not only strengthened the friendship between Vietnam and the two Gulf nations but also laid a firm foundation for increasing bilateral cooperation in investment, trade, energy, food and labour.

Qatar and Kuwait have built on their traditional friendship with Vietnam. The Qatari Emir joined demonstrations against the Vietnam War while Kuwait was the first Gulf nation to establish diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1976. During meetings with Mr Dung, the Emirs and PMs of Qatar and Kuwait expressed their admiration for the late President Ho Chi Minh, legendary General Vo Nguyen Giap and the Vietnamese people in general during their past struggle for national liberation.

Besides diplomatic formalities for the head of State, Qatari and Kuwaiti leaders welcomed Mr Dung as a close friend. The Qatari PM himself drove Mr Dung to a welcoming party while the Kuwaiti Emir invited his Vietnamese guest to review a military parade to mark his country’s 48th National Day.

The Qatari and Kuwaiti Governments agreed to establish partnerships with Vietnam to ensure energy and food security in their respective countries. In response, Vietnam signed agreements on agricultural cooperation with Qatar and Kuwait in hopes of meeting these countries’ demand for food production.

Qatar and Kuwait also agreed to promote cooperation with Vietnam in the petrochemical industry, especially oil and gas exploration and exploitation.   

The two Gulf nations expressed their desire to boost investment and trade ties with Vietnam by signing with the Southeast Asian nation agreements on double tax avoidance and investment encouragement and protection.

Their PMs pledged to strictly implement the agreement and deals reached during Mr Dung’s visits, including the Nghi Son petrochemical refinery in Thanh Hoa province into which Kuwait will pour more than US$6 billion.

The Qatari PM agreed to allot a piece of land in the capital for the building of a trade centre to showcase Vietnamese products in the country. He also announced the start of the joint Qatar-Vietnam investment fund with an initial capitalisation of US$1 billion.

The Vietnam State Capital Investment Corporation (SCIC) also signed a cooperation agreement with the Kuwait Investment Authority (KIA). SCIC director general Tran Van Ta affirmed that the signing of the agreement will empower Qatari and Kuwaiti businesses to invest in Vietnam as both SCIC and KIA are government-level financial institutions.

Labour cooperation also took centre stage during Mr Dung’s trip. Both Qatar and Kuwait expressed their desire to increase cooperation in this field with Vietnam as both are in great need of overseas labour.

PM Dung asked the Vietnamese embassies in Qatar and Kuwait to work closely with labour export companies towards training Vietnamese workers to ensure that they get steady jobs and earn high incomes.

Together with a trip to the United Arab Emirates last month, the visits to Qatar and Kuwait are expected to offer prospects for long-term cooperation between Vietnam and countries in the Gulf region.


Vietnam wants further cooperation with UN agencies: president

President Nguyen Minh Triet said Vietnam wanted to boost its cooperation with UN agencies in terms of quality and efficiency, stressing the country’s need for continuous cooperation and support from those agencies.

Triet delivered the statement during his meeting in Hanoi Friday with the UN Resident Coordinator in Vietnam, John Hendra.

The Vietnamese President applauded the contributions of a number of UN agencies to Vietnam’s socio-economic development and said he wished for further cooperation with those agencies.

He highlighted the important role of the UN coordinator in Vietnam in helping the international community gain a thorough understanding of the country.

Triet also reiterated the country’s backing of the UN reform process, which includes those agencies posted in Vietnam, describing the “One UN” initiative as a much-needed reform.

He confirmed the country’s support for multilateral institutions, particularly the UN, in increasingly promoting their role in solving international issues.

The UN Resident Coordinator talked about Vietnam’s numerous contributions to the reform of the UN Security Council, saying that he expected Vietnam to make even greater contributions to UN activities in the future.

He told Triet that, in the current economic situation, UN agencies in Vietnam were looking to shift to providing policy consultancy services to the nation and helping strengthen the country’s policy-building capacity.

Although Vietnam is a pioneer in implementing a number of UN programs, including the “One UN” initiative, there were vital goals within those programs relating to legal reform and state management, Hendra reminded his host.

Source: VNA