The East Sea (South China Sea or SCS) is “rising again” despite the COVID-19 pandemic still raging across five continents. Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Defense Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh recently spoke out about developments in the sea over the past few days.
In answering the Defense TV channel’s question about the security challenges and situation of the SCS in the context of the world coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen. Vinh affirmed the need to condemn the invading countries at sea amid the outbreak.
He said: “The challenges of security in the area, with or without the pandemic, still exist. That is the challenge, not the risk. It is worthy of condemnation that countries on this occasion promote their illegal activities and ambitions. And that I think is not conducive to that country. Whatever countries do that, they will not get beneficial.”
The deputy defense minister affirmed that the pandemic did not make the People’s Army of Vietnam (VPA) to forget to deal with security challenges, in which the protection of sovereignty is unforgettable.”
Mr. Vinh added that Vietnamese naval vessels and police officers “have not taken a day off.” Although soldiers in Truong Sa have to be careful not to get infected with the disease, all soldiers are on their mission,” he said.
Gen. Vinh draws the conclusion that the current pandemic is a time for both the military and the Vietnamese nation to “fundamentally change their perceptions” towards the non-traditional challenges and relationships with other countries. He said:
“In the challenge of non-traditional security, in foreign relations, international relations, at times like this we will know who are our friends, who are our close friends, who are just partners. At times like these, we realize that when our country is in trouble, those who will come to us. This is very important. ”
Gen. Vinh’s speech was broadcast on April 26 by the Ministry of Defense Television. However, the deputy minister of defense did not identify the countries that are operating illegally and promoting ambition in the region.
On social media, many Vietnamese expressed dissatisfaction with the statements of General Vinh because he did not specify the names of the countries involved. But Dr. Tran Cong Truc, former head of the Government Border Committee, said that the deputy minister of defense does not need to go into the details:
“With that statement, people can immediately recognize who is friend and who is enemy. But obviously this is a rather complicated issue, because it’s not just the Chinese that we want to target. So for a military strategist at that strategic level I think that statement is just right, not necessarily explicit. It is said so to remind people to be alert.”
In the face of China’s expansion in the South China Sea, Dr. Truc affirmed that Vietnam and some countries in the region need to unite and fight by law and at the same time strengthen “strength, activities and presence in the field .”
A number of major powers also need to be present in the region, not allowing China to engage in activities that provoke tensions or even provoke war.
Mr. Vinh is currently the Deputy Minister in charge of Vietnam’s foreign affairs at the Ministry of Defense, both being a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam and a Standing Member of the Central Military Commission of the People’s Army. Vietnam.
It should be noted that the Central Military Commission is the leading organ of the Communist Party of Vietnam in the VPA, which is a research agency proposing to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam issues on military policies and lines; national defense plan; directions and measures to build a national defense system; Party leadership with the Vietnam People’s Army. As such, General Vinh plays very important roles in the field of defense in Vietnam.
Blogger Nhat Nguyen judges General Vinh to be a rare person in the military who acts as a spokesman for important issues of the Ministry of Defense and implements defense foreign policy.
During the recent Defense White Book launch in late 2019, General Vinh also acted as the presenter of the introduction of the White Book as a message of Vietnamese policy circles to the world.
Therefore, General Vinh’s statement at this time is also a message to consider and analyze to show partly the attitude of Vietnamese leaders on this issue.
Through the statement of General Vinh, the author made some comments as follows.
“First, although the reporter’s question is directly on the South China Sea issue, Gen. Vinh did not mention the South China Sea directly; instead, he only used the phrase “regional security.” In addition, he talked about certain countries on the occasion of the Covid-19 pandemic to promote illegal activities, which implies China. However, Gen. Vinh did not mention it by name. This shows the reluctance of Vietnamese leaders to criticize China.
Second, Gen. Vinh said that regional security is only a challenge, not a risk. Indeed, the hottest area of regional security today is the South China Sea. And the most stressful issue in Vietnam – China relations is also the SCS issue. China’s failure to abandon its ambition to monopolize the sea, along with increasing ggressive actions in the exclusive economic zone of other ASEAN countries, including Vietnam, has led to these regional nations continually strengthen their military strength, resulting in an arms race in the region. From there, the risk of this area as a barrel of gunpowder. Especially for Vietnam, which is always threatened by China.
Therefore, the fact that Gen. Vinh mentioned regional security is only a challenge and not a risk, showing the level of interest of Vietnamese leaders in this issue. As a result, Vietnam’s response plans to the SCS issue will be inadequate. That also explains why Vietnamese experts believe that Vietnam has not really had a strategy to deal with China in the SCS effectively and long term.
The third must also be mentioned, but beyond the declaration of Gen. Vin, even if it is related. Gen. Vinh has also had quite strong statements about China and the South China Sea since 2011, but some Vietnamese still know that, during the tense Vietnam-China relationship in 2011 with the Chinese ship event cut off the cable of Vietnam’s Binh Minh 02 ship, Gen. Vinh’s daughter was studying in China, very well cared for by China. In addition, Vinh’s sister is Vietjetair Airlines’ Chairwoman of the Board of Directors, the company that is receiving financial assistance from China .”
Back in 2011, Gen. Vinh tried to “reassure” China at the Second Vietnam-China Deputy Ministerial Security and Strategic Dialogue in Beijing, praising the Sino-Vietnamese relationship right after the aggression of this country.
In a meeting held on Sunday, August 28, 2011, Mr. Vinh was quoted by the Vietnam News Agency as saying: “If Vietnam needs support, sympathy, cooperation and development, which countries are better than China? It is worth noting that Chinese comrades respect Vietnam’s sovereignty and want Vietnam to develop.
The statement of Gen Vinh was given in the context of recent protests against China in Hanoi.
Vinh also informed the Chinese that Vietnam’s security would “resolutely prevent anti-China protests, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
This is one of the first senior officials in the central government to publicly support the anti-protest notice that Hanoi authorities issued that time, which has been under some legal attack.
Some comments said Vinh was making efforts to reduce stress to make way for the upcoming visit to Beijing by newly-reelected General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
Trong later that year went to China to witness officials of the two sides sign a General Agreement on the principle of dispute resolution at sea. However, some people said that this document was prepared by the Chinese side. Some international law experts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who followed to check the documents were expelled by the Chinese side on the grounds that this was an internal affair between the two parties. As a result, the Chinese text refers to the policy of “dispute between exploration and exploitation” between the two countries in the disputed maritime area while the Vietnamese version it has been tried to be changed to ” Cooperation for joint Development.”
Blogger Dong Phung Viet also reiterated that “Mr. Vinh used to be the official promoting Vietnam’s three-zero policy” (No military alliance, no permit for any country to set up military bases in Vietnam, no partnering with a country to work against the third country).
The “upholding this policy is not because of … peacetime but only because of the desire” to have a huge socialist friend besides support and cooperation for mutual benefits, it will be extremely favorable for the cause of building socialism in Vietnam.”
The author has reviewed General Vinh’s “pro-Chinese” moves.
“In 2012, when some countries determined to prevent China from militarizing and monopolizing the South China Sea, Vinh warned that it was“ a new arms race, a new cold war and a new ‘gunboat diplomacy’ strategy of the superpowers “and that is the” greatest risk “to security in Asia-Pacific in general, Southeast Asia in particular and we oppose, disagree with such development trends, and absolutely not swept away in that direction!”
At that time, the proposal of “internationalizing the East Sea issue” to help Vietnam balance both power and position in resolving sovereignty disputes with China was denied by Gen. Vinh who said: A problem between Vietnam and China is always associated with the world’s chess board but in matters of the two countries, Vietnam and China are the two players and other parties should not interfere for gaining profit.
The next year – 2013 – as China became more and more aggressive in the SCS, Gen. Vinh continues to encourage people to believe in the party in dealing with China and all have the duty to maintain the unity between the people and the party.”
Considered by the observers to be wise in his words for “peaceful settlement of sovereignty disputes,” “it does not greatly disrupt the friendly neighbor-relations” but Gen. Vinh still could not hide his “pro-Beijing attitude”
Can Vietnamese communist elites be able to escape the shadow of Beijing when generals like Mr. Vinh hold such important positions?
Through the above-mentioned actions of Vietnamese senior officials such as General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and even Gen. Vinh, we see the dream of “escaping from China” of the millions of Vietnamese is still far away.
Thu Thuy from Hochiminh city – Thoibao.de (Translated)