Contradictions in statements of Defense Ministers of Vietnam and China at Shangri-La Dialogue

General Phan Van Giang, Politburo member, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission, Minister of National Defense of Vietnam

“I would like to re-emphasize that the national defense of Vietnam is a national defense of peaceful and self-defensive nature. Strengthen national defense potential to defend the Fatherland. Vietnam advocates strengthening its defense capabilities with its own internal resources and conditions and capabilities, not joining military alliances, not aligning with one country to fight other countries, and not allowing foreign countries to set up military bases in or use the Vietnamese territory against another country, without using force or threatening to use force in international relations.”

That was the speech of General Phan Van Giang, Politburo member, Deputy Secretary of the Central Military Commission, and Minister of National Defense of Vietnam at the Shangri-La Dialogue 2022 taking place in Singapore on June 10-12.

Mr. Phan Van Giang’s statement once again shows that Hanoi is consistent with its “Four Nos” policy. This policy is developed from the “Three Nos”’ policy from 2019.

Lieutenant Colonel Vu Minh Tri, who used to work at the Technical Department, General Department 2, Ministry of National Defense, said that in the past, Vietnam had brought tens of thousands of troops to Cambodia to fight; once allowed the Soviet Union to set up a military base in Cam Ranh… then changed it with a policy of “Three Nos” and “Four Nos.”

While the situation has not changed much, the threat from hostile forces is said to be increasing day by day, but without a military alliance with anyone, I see this as no practical basis, even theoretically.

Second, military alliance policy is only one part of a nation’s foreign policy. For about 30 years, Vietnam has repeatedly said that it wants to be friends with all countries. I find it very utopian because in the world there are nearly 200 countries with very different political regimes, political views, and political institutions, even some countries are in conflict with each other like Russia and Ukraine today. Therefore, it is impossible to want to be friends with all countries because then there will never be real friends.

I find Vietnam’s foreign policy of wanting to make friends with all countries and the Three-no, Four-no, or Five-no policy of Vietnam is very crappy and harmful in many ways. That makes Vietnam not really have a reliable ally. Diplomatically, externally, militarily, Vietnam’s current situation is really very worrying.

Also at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2022, Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said that Beijing and Hanoi have a very good relationship and affirmed that China has never invaded any country’s territory.

When Ms. Bich Tran, a representative of Vietnam, recalled the history of China’s repeated invasions of Vietnam and questioned whether Mr. Wei Fenghe ‘s assertion was “China’s promise not to invade Vietnam in the future,” Mr. Wei replied: “I am a good brother and a good friend to the Minister of Vietnam. So with what happened in the past, I think you need to read about history.”

Some people are concerned that the Chinese Defense Minister’s way of speaking is “slanderous” and disrespectful to his Vietnamese counterpart.

South China Sea researcher Dinh Kim Phuc expressed his views to RFA:

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe continues to lie when he says that China has never invaded any country in its history. Obviously, this is the running argument of the current Chinese state. They deny all their past and present invasions.”

Looking back at the history of Vietnam, we see that there has never been a Vietnamese ambassador who has suffered humiliation when being humiliated by the opponent at a conference or on a mission. If it is true that China stated these issues in front of the Vietnamese Defense Minister and Vietnam does not have a statement to retaliate, then I cannot understand the attitude of Vietnam.

As for Vietnam’s point of view, it is respecting international law, settling disputes by peaceful means, supporting justice by international law, by the United Nations charter, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, etc. I fully support it because I am the generation that went through the war. I don’t want war, nor do I want this country to have war because war is costly. But it’s a very difficult thing to understand when being manipulated by China to speak with a big voice, with a gracious voice, with an elder voice that we don’t react to.

Mr. Dinh Kim Phuc recalled the invasions of Vietnam’s seas and islands when the two communist parties of China and Vietnam considered each other as “lips and teeth.” For example, China has occupied the eastern part of the Hoang Sa (Paracels) since 1956 when the Saigon government at that time did not have enough conditions to manage this area from the French colonialists. Then, in 1974, China used force to occupy the western part of the archipelago. In 1988, China continued to occupy seven islands in the Truong Sa (Spratlys) of Vietnam.

This is not the first time that Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe has stated that the country has never invaded another country. At the 2019 Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, the minister said: “In the 70 years since its founding, China has never launched a war or conflict, or invaded the country. or take even an inch of another country’s land… History has proven and will continue to prove that China will not follow the path of great powers seeking hegemony as it grows. Hegemony is not in line with China’s national interests and values.”

Regarding the South China Sea issue, Senior Lieutenant General Wei Fenghe affirmed that China’s building of islands and militarization in the sea is under China’s sovereignty and purely for self-defense purposes.

In fact, China has used force to invade or violate the waters/territory of Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia. (Translated)