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Vietnam - Foreign Relations

During the second Indochina war (1954-75), North Vietnam sought to balance relations with its two major allies, the Soviet Union and China. Tensions with China began to grow during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and by 1975, Beijing had become increasingly critical of Hanoi's growing ties with Moscow. Over the next 4 years, Beijing's growing support for Cambodia's Khmer Rouge, which in 1978 initiated bloody attacks across its border with Vietnam, reinforced Vietnamese suspicions of China's motives.

Vietnam's foreign policy has reflected the "evolving progressive thinking" of Vietnam's leadership as the country has passed rapidly through different periods of political development. Vietnam initiated its "Doi Moi" (renovation) policy during the 6th Party Congress in 1986, where it focused primarily on relations with the former Soviet Union and considered that nation the cornerstone of Vietnam's foreign policy.

Two years later, the Politburo adjusted the country's foreign policy to respond to the "new situation" emerging from the 1986 decision to liberalize the domestic economy, shifting away from a dogmatic alliance with the Soviet Union and towards a new policy of "more friends and fewer enemies." During this period, the policy was to co-exist in peace with China, ASEAN and the United States. At the 7th Party Congress in 1991, Vietnam again shifted its focus, this time to consolidating its relations with Laos and Cambodia and speeding up normalization with China. Five years later, at the 8th Party Congress, Vietnam reaffirmed that it sought to strengthen relations with its neighbors, ASEAN members and "traditional friends." Not until 2001, at the 9th Congress, did the Government of Vietnam announce its current foreign policy, which the Party calls "independent and self-reliant diversification and multi-lateralization of international relations," and which the Vietnamese man-on- the-street calls the "friends with everyone" policy. .

This evolution of Vietnamese foreign policy from lockstep agreement with the Soviet Union to the current "friends with everyone" policy reflects pragmatism in the GVN leadership and a desire to integrate Vietnam internationally, in contrast to a policy based on adherence to international Communist doctrine.

The 10th Party Congress reaffirmed and deepened the country's strongly supported foreign policy. Vietnam's motto is "Vietnam wants to be a friend and reliable partner with all nations in the international community, striving for peace, independence and development," he explained. The Foreign Ministry was confident enough that Vietnam's foreign policy will stay consistent that Foreign Minister Nguyen Dzy Nien provided a foreign policy forecast for 2006 during February's Lunar New Year celebrations. He said Vietnam will focus on four areas, including: (1) the continued development, on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, of stable and long- term relations with "neighbors and great powers;" (2) enhanced efforts for international integration and accession to WTO; (3) the successful hosting of APEC; and, (4) continued implementation of the Government's Resolution 36 concerning building relations with overseas Vietnamese.

With the Government's foreign policy "not open to debate," the 10th Party Congress serveed only to reaffirm its continuity, rather than creating any unexpected reversals. The draft Political Report of the 10th Congress pledged that Vietnam will "expand its consistent foreign policy in the format of diversification and multi-lateralization of relations, which was first introduced during the 7th National Party Congress in 1991". According to the Political Report, the mission of Vietnam's foreign policy is to maintain peace and stability. This means that Vietnam had to create and maintain peace and stability not only with China, but also with Laos and Cambodia to ensure a buffer zone for the country. People tend to underestimate Laos and Cambodia as small countries, but they are vital for a stable Vietnam.

Vietnamese leaders love their proverbs. Explaining that, in spite of its "friends with everyone" policy, Vietnam still has to prioritize its efforts, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan said in a press article in Nhan Dan ("People's Daily") Newspaper on November 14, 2005 that "nearby neighbors are even more valuable than far away relatives." Vietnam, he explained, attaches importance in its current foreign policy to building and consolidating its relations with neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, and those in the Asia-Pacific region. Regardless of what the 10th Party Congress affirms or doesn't affirm, Vietnam will have to balance and enhance its relations with China and the United States among others, multiple senior sources confirmed.

Vietnam understands that "the grass suffers when the elephants fight," and so it requires tough calculations for Vietnam to masterfully balance its relations with both China and the United States. However, in the short to medium term, there will likely be more "breakthroughs" in U.S.-Vietnam relations than in China-Vietnam relations. History has taught Vietnam enough about "not getting too close or too far with China". There is a lot more room for progress in U.S.-Vietnam relations in the future. For the immediate future, Vietnam's foreign policy experts expect that Vietnam will want to do more with the United States, thus tying its foreign policy decisions to its national economic interests.

Another priority is to "elevate Vietnam's image and position" in the international arena. To do this, Vietnam will have to prove that it is not only a reliable partner, but also an active and responsible member of the international community. In an interview with Ha Noi Moi ("New Hanoi") newspaper, Foreign Minister Nien said that Vietnam's WTO accession, its hosting APEC and its candidacy for non- permanent membership in the 2008-2009 UN Security Council are all designed to elevate Vietnam's international position.

Vietnam-China relations deteriorated significantly after Hanoi instituted a ban in March 1978 on private trade, which had a particularly large impact on southern Vietnam's ethnic Chinese community. Following Vietnam's December 1978 invasion of Cambodia and the expulsion of a significant number of Hoa (ethnic Chinese) from Vietnam, China in February 1979 launched a 3-week incursion over Vietnam's northern border.

Faced with severance of Chinese aid and strained international relations, Vietnam established even closer ties with the Soviet Union and its allies in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon). Through the 1980s, Vietnam received nearly $3 billion a year in economic and military aid from the Soviet Union and conducted most of its trade with that country and with other Comecon countries. However, Soviet and East bloc economic aid declined during the perestroika era and ceased completely after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Vietnam did not begin to emerge from international isolation until it withdrew its troops from Cambodia in 1989. Within months of the 1991 Paris Agreements, Vietnam established diplomatic and economic relations with ASEAN, as well as with most of the countries of Western Europe and Northeast Asia. China reestablished full diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1991, and the two countries began joint efforts to demarcate their land and sea borders, expand trade and investment ties, and build political relations.

Over the past decades, Vietnam has recognized the increasing importance of growing global economic interdependence and has made concerted efforts to adjust its foreign relations to reflect the evolving international economic and political situation in Southeast Asia. The country has begun to integrate itself into the regional and global economy by joining international organizations. Vietnam has stepped up its efforts to attract foreign capital from the West and regularize relations with the world financial system. In the 1990s, following the lifting of the American veto on multilateral loans to the country, Vietnam became a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank. The country has expanded trade with its East Asian neighbors as well as with countries in Western Europe and North America.

Of particular significance was Vietnam's acceptance into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1995. Vietnam's influence in ASEAN has expanded significantly; the country served as Chairman in 2010. Vietnam joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in November 1998 and hosted summits for APEC in 2006 and ASEAN in 2010. In December 2009, Vietnam completed a 2-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. At the Eleventh Party Congress in 2011, Communist Party leaders adopted a more internationally engaged foreign policy platform, which also called for a more government-wide approach to foreign policy, increasingly involving the Ministry of National Defense and Ministry of Public Security in the policy-making process.

Vietnam considers Japan to be one of its top strategic partners, while Japan wanted to boost the strategic partnership with Vietnam. Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida shared the view at the sixth meeting of the Vietnam-Japan Cooperation Committee, which they co-chaired, as well as at their talks in Hanoi on 01 August 2014.

The newly-elected Indian Government continues to regard Vietnam as a pillar in its Look East policy, said Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in talks with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh on 25 August 2014 during her visit to Hanoi. They touched upon recent developments in the East Sea and agreed on the importance of ensuring peace, stability, security, and safety of navigation in these waters. Minh and Swaraj highlighted the importance of the peaceful settlement of East Sea disputes in line with international law, including the 1982 United National Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982); and a full and serious implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) towards the early completion of a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Membership in International Organizations

Vietnam is a member of the Asian Development Bank, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and the World Health Organization. Reflecting Vietnam’s recognition of its place in the global economy, in 1995 Vietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Now an observer at the World Trade Organization (WTO), Vietnam hopes to become a full member of the WTO in 2006. Vietnam has been a member of the WTO since 11 January 2007

Other memberships include the Colombo Plan for Cooperative Economic and Social Development in Asia and the Pacific, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank), International Civil Aviation Organization, International Development Association, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Finance Corporation, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization, Interpol, International Olympic Committee, International Telecommunication Union, Nonaligned Movement, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, World Confederation of Labor, World Customs Organization, World Federation of Trade Unions, and World Intellectual Property Organization.

Major International Treaties

With the United States, Vietnam reached the following agreements: Normalization of Relations (1995), Bilateral Trade (2001), and Counternarcotics, Civil Aviation, and Textiles (2003). With China, Vietnam reached a Land Border Agreement (1999), an Agreement on Borders in the Gulf of Tonkin (2000), and a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (2002). With Russia, Vietnam agreed to a Strategic Partnership (2001).

Aside from these bilateral agreements, Vietnam is a signatory to numerous international agreements on biological weapons, chemical weapons, civil aviation, counterterrorism, diplomatic immunity, nuclear nonproliferation, and war crimes. Notable agreements on the environment include the following: Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any other Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (1978), Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident (1986), Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency (1987), Convention for Protection of the Ozone Layer (1988), Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1989), and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1994).

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Page last modified: 23-09-2019 18:45:13 ZULU