Saturday, August 10, 2013

Vietnam and Russia Boost Defence Ties

Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh is finishing up a trip to Russia to boost military ties, in line with the two countries’ efforts to build on a strategic partnership they signed last year

 “Russia is Vietnam’s top strategic military partner, and the cooperation in training, information exchange and science research has been expanding…and will continue playing an important role in the bilateral defense ties,” Minister Thanh said in a statement posted Thursday on the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense’s website.

“The cooperation will strengthen the traditional friendship relations, mutual benefit for peace and development, and not aim to a third country,” Mr. Thanh said, giving  no indication of any deals his delegation might sign with the Russian side during the trip.

Russia has long been Vietnam’s top supplier of weapon and military equipment and Minister Thanh’s trip is especially important for the Vietnamese after U.S. ambassador David Shear said Wednesday that the U.S. won’t sell the country lethal arms until Hanoi improves its human rights record.

The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership — which presidents Truong Tan Sang and Vladimir Putin signed in May 2012 — is an upgrade from the previous Strategic Partnership signed in 2001. It marked the first time that Vietnam publicly revealed its signed military deals with Russia, which included a purchase of modern jet fighters and missiles and an agreement to receive Russian training to boost its defense forces amid rising disputes in the South China Sea.

In 2012, Vietnam signed a deal to borrow $8 billion from Russia to build its first nuclear power plant. Russian state-run utility and nuclear energy company Rosatom is expected to start the project next year, with operations ready in 2020.

The trip comes as Russia’s economic activity has increased in Vietnam. In the first seven months of this year, Russia has been the third-biggest foreign investor in Vietnam, with an investment of $1 billion.  The two biggest foreign investors so far this year are Japan, with $4.1 billion, and Singapore, with $3.73 billion. Bilateral trade between Vietnam and Russia increased to $2.45 billion in 2012, from $1.98 billion in 2011.

Defense Minister Thanh, whose trip to Russia was between Aug 8-10,  heads next to Poland, Bulgaria and the Netherlands.

In May, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung led a delegation to visit Russia to mark one year of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. During his three-day trip, Mr. Dung visited a military base in Kaliningrad, where Russia was testing the first among the six Kilo-class (Project 636) diesel-electric submarines for Vietnam, the government said. They are the first and biggest submarines that Vietnam has acquired.

“The sale of submarines to Vietnam is not only a commercial contract but it is a symbol of the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership,” Mr. Dung said.

In recent years,Vietnam has bought a large amount of materials from Russia. The expanding relationship has prompted the two countries to upgrade their defense relationship to facilitate closer collaboration in defense production and related research and development, said James Hardy, who is Asia-Pacific editor of IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

In 2009 Vietnam ordered six Kilo-class, diesel-electric submarines, the first of which is scheduled to go into service this month, Mr. Hardy said. Since 2009 Vietnam has also acquired 20 Sukhoi Su-30MK2 fighter aircraft, Svetlyak-class (Project 1041.2) fast attack craft, and Gepard frigates from Russia, he said.

Vietnam doesn’t publicize its defense budget for the recent years as it often considers military activities to be state secrets. The defense budget was last disclosed in the 2009 Defense White Paper, reaching $1.46 billion in 2008, equal to 1.8% of GDP that year.

1 comment:

  1. Vietnam Attempts Mission Impossible [China Post Commentary]

    August 10, 2013

    China Post

    The Vietnamese government seems to be trying to stamp its
    authority over electronic communications; this is a ridiculous move
    that will inflame anger and ultimately fail.

    The Vietnamese government will cover the whole sky with its small
    hands by issuing a new law to control and clean up public information
    disseminated via the Internet. Hanoi is set to enact new legislation,
    known as Decree 72, to criminalize the use of social media for
    anything other than to “provide or exchange personal information.”

    The law, if it comes into force by next month as foreseen, would ban
    individuals from quoting or sharing information from press or
    government agencies. Internet service providers, under this law, would
    be prohibited from handling information that could be deemed as
    “against Vietnam.”

    The law also demands that all foreign websites have at least one
    server in Vietnam, which will give the Vietnamese authorities greater
    control of content.

    If the law is effective, communication via the Internet will consist
    only of chat, messages, blogs and Facebook and Twitter postings about
    personal and family matters. Anything deemed “public affairs” will
    be off-limits.

    This is ridiculous. It is highly controversial for any government to
    issue a law that bans people from sharing information, especially
    information that is being publicized by government agencies in the
    first place.

    Vietnam has a poor record when it comes to freedom of expression, both
    online and offline. Reporters Without Borders ranks the country 172nd
    out of 179th in its press-freedom index, ahead of only China, Iran,
    Somalia, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea when it comes to
    respecting media liberty.

    Although Vietnam has no solid reputation for the protection of human
    rights or democratic principles, it is still expected to at least
    allow space for people to have a certain degree of freedom of
    expression and a right to know about current events.

    It is no secret that the authorities screen all information
    disseminated to the public media in Vietnam. Therefore what is the
    point of barring people from sharing such information?

    The government in Hanoi will find it difficult to achieve anything
    with this move, but if its intent is to further curtail the rights of
    its people and hinder its chance of fully integrating with global
    development, then it is doing a good job.

    Vietnam, although it still calls itself a communist state, has been
    open to the world for decade ever since the “doi moi” policy was
    initiated. The spirit of doi moi is openness, but openness means
    allowing people to know what they want to know and what is necessary
    for them to know.

    Freedom of communication and the right to information is a basic
    requirement of any country in the modern world. Vietnam is now working
    toward integration into the Asean Economic Community. How can
    Vietnamese citizens learn about and understand the situation in the
    region and the wider world if they're not allowed to share
    information? How can they understand the maritime disputes in the
    South China See if their government allows them to share only pictures
    of dinner or stories about their love affairs?

    Control of Internet communication is an impossible mission for any
    government. The U.S. is leaning this at enormous cost. Any government
    that wants total control over the Internet needs a huge budget,
    resources and manpower to monitor every information transaction - and,
    more sinisterly, a deep and willful distrust of its own citizens. It
    will realize eventually that such an effort is useless.