Monday, January 18, 2021, 10:23 (GMT+7)
Defence international integration and external affairs in 2020, orientation to 2021

In 2020, the world faced many complicated and unpredictable challenges; security flashpoints continue to “escalate”. Particularly, strategic competition between major powers, sovereignty disputes over sea and islands, climate change, terrorism, cyber security... have deeply affected and posed many unprecedented challenges to the implementation of defence international integration and external affairs of Vietnam. In particular, Covid-19 broke out and became a global pandemic, seriously affecting the fields of economy, politics, society, national defence, security, foreign affairs, etc., of countries and territories, including Vietnam.

With strong political determination, the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defence determined not to let the pandemic affect defence foreign affairs and cooperation with other countries as well as the implementation of military plans and activities in the year that Vietnam assumes the “dual role” of both ASEAN President in 2020 and a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2020-2021 term. At the same time, they closely directed agencies and units in the whole army to unite, make efforts and actively adapt to the new normal state, turn difficulties and challenges into opportunities, implement defence international integration and foreign affairs proactively and creatively in accordance with the foreign lines and policies of the Party and State, closely follow the Resolution of the 10th Military Party Congress for the 2015 – 2020 term, Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW of the Central Military Commission on defence international integration and foreign affairs to 2020, the Project of “International integration in defence to 2020, with a vision to 2030”, etc. Accordingly, defence international integration and cooperation continued to be deployed synchronously, comprehensively, achieving many positive results, successfully completing the task of preventing and fighting against the Covid-19 pandemic and the objectives and plans of foreign affairs set out for 2020, which was recognised and highly appreciated by the Party, State and the People.

Sr. Lt. Gen Hoang Xuan Chien and Combodia's Ambassador to Vietnam Chay Navuth (Photo:

The highlight of defence foreign affairs in 2020 was multilateral cooperation. Amid the complicated developments of the Covid-19 pandemic, adhering to the guiding motto of “cohesion and proactive adaptation”, with political determination, activeness, initiative, the leading and coordinating role of the President and the solidarity of ASEAN countries, we have completed the priorities and initiatives as planned. In particular, the ASEAN military and defence conferences have been successfully organised. Vietnam’s initiatives proposed in these conferences have been approved with high consensus by other countries. In particular, when Covid-19 wasn’t considered by the World Health Organisation as a global pandemic, we had promptly proposed and consulted ASEAN countries so that the block issued a Joint Declaration on defence cooperation in response to the pandemic at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat in Hanoi in February 2020, as the basis and an important foundation for ASEAN militaries to propose and implement their initiatives in the prevention and control of the pandemic as well as cooperation activities in the new context.

Closing the year of ASEAN Presidency in 2020, the Ministry of National Defence successfully hosted the 14th ADMM, the 7th ADMM+ and the 10th Anniversary of ADMM+ with the issuance of a Joint Statement of ASEAN Defence Ministers on Defence Cooperation for a Cohesive and Proactive ASEAN. Especially, after 7 years since 2013, the 7th ADMM+ Conference issued the Joint Declaration of Defence Ministers of ADMM+ countries on the Security Strategic Vision of ADMM+. This has great significance, affirming the importance of the ADMM and ADMM+ mechanisms, demonstrating the solidarity, high unity, strong commitment and determination of ASEAN member states and ADMM+ in strengthening defence cooperation, effectively contributing to peace, stability and development in the region and the world. The positive results of the Military and National Defence Conferences during the year Vietnam took the role of ASEAN Chairmanship once again affirmed the role, position and prestige of Vietnam in general and of the Vietnam People's Army, in particular, in the region and in the international arena.

In the field of United Nations peacekeeping operations, the year 2020 continued to recognise the positive contribution of Vietnam when the 2nd level-2 field hospital in South Sudan maintained its good operation and was highly appreciated by the United Nations on the results and measures to prevent and control the Covid-19 pandemic for the hospital itself as well as UN forces in South Sudan. We have also completed the training work, got ready to deploy the No. 3 level-2 field hospital to replace the second one as planned and are actively preparing for the deployment of our Engineering team to an appropriate UN mission in 2021. Notably, in 2020, Vietnam had two first officers recruited to the United Nations Strategic Advisory Body at the UN Headquarters. This is very favourable for our future deployment of forces, and also affirms the levels and capabilities of VPA officers in international working environment. The year 2020 was also an important milestone for Vietnam peacekeeping forces when on November 13, 2020, the National Assembly passed a Resolution on participating the  UN peacekeeping force, creating an important legal corridor for this task in the coming time.

Proactively adapting to the new context, maintaining and promoting defence cooperation on both bilateral and multilateral levels, foreign defence relations in 2020 continued to be affirmed as an important pillar of foreign affairs of the Party and the State, making an important contribution to building trust, preventing conflicts, protecting independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity of the Fatherland, maintaining a peaceful and stable environment to develop the country; at the same time, attracting external resources to build the Army and strengthen the national defence.

In 2021, it is forecasted that the regional and world situations will continue to develop complicatedly and be difficult to forecast. The strategic adjustment and competition among major powers are becoming increasingly drastic, with many potential factors of instability; issues of territory, borders, sea and islands will continue to develop complicatedly; powerism and extreme nationalism are still present; Covid-19 pandemic has many potential risks of resurgence and prolongation, on a large scale, etc. In order to contribute to the effective implementation of the Resolution of the 13th National Party Congress, the Resolution of the 11th Military Party Congress, defence foreign affairs should focus on the following main tasks :

Firstly, to thoroughly grasp and seriously and effectively deploy defence foreign activities according to the foreign policies defined by the 13th National Congress of the Party; Directive No. 25-CT/TW, dated 8/8/2018 of the Secretariat on promoting and enhancing multilateral foreign relations by 2030; Resolution of the 11th Congress of the Party Committee, Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW of the Central Military Commission on “International Integration and Defence Foreign Affairs to 2020 and beyond”; effectively implement the project of “International integration on national defence to 2020, with a vision to 2030”. Proactively research, grasp the situation of the world and the region, promptly advise measures for handling issues related to international integration and defence foreign affairs, South China Sea issues, not to be left passive and unexpected. Organise a review of defence foreign affairs in the period between 2015 and 2020 and the term of non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Secondly, to attach importance to promoting bilateral defence cooperation with important strategic partners, bringing the established relationship framework into practical effectiveness. Handle the arising issues carefully, closely and harmoniously. Continue to give priority to relations and cooperation with neighbouring countries, major countries, ASEAN countries and traditional friends, and at the same time expand relations and cooperation with potential countries. Review and effectively implement the signed documents, focusing on a number of key areas, such as: strengthening high-level delegation exchanges; staff training; overcoming war consequences; search and rescue; military medicine; strategic research, science and technology; defence industry; marine security; UN peacekeeping. Strengthen border defence friendship exchanges when the Covid-19 pandemic is under control. Organise the Vietnam - China, Vietnam - Cambodia Border Defence Friendship Exchange and the Friendship Border Exchange; Vietnam International Defence Exhibition 2021, etc.

Thirdly, proactively and actively participate in multilateral defence mechanisms and forums, where ASEAN plays a central role; participate in building, shaping and consolidating mechanisms, laws and standards for maintaining peace, stability, security, preventing conflicts, and promoting cooperation for mutual benefit. Intensify exchange of information and propose initiatives at ASEAN military and defence multilateral conferences and forums. Continue to build common views and stances of defence leaders of ASEAN countries on the South China Sea issue on the basis of respecting for international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea; strictly implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and develop a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with international law. To get ready to deploy Rotation 3 level-2 Field Hospital to replace the second one; thoroughly prepare for the deployment of the Engineering Team to UN peacekeeping missions when required. Expand cooperation with the European Union (EU); effectively implement the Agreement on setting up a framework for Vietnam's participation in EU crisis management activities (FPA Agreement).

Fourth, continue to supplement and perfect the system of legal documents related to defence foreign affairs in accordance with requirements and tasks in the new situation. In the immediate future, implement the Circular detailing and guiding the implementation of a number of articles of the Government's Decree No. 22/2016/NĐ-CP, dated March 31, 2016, on defence foreign affairs; submit to the Government a draft Decree amending Decree No. 104/2012/NĐ-CP, dated December 5, 2012, on foreign military ships docking in Vietnam; closely coordinate with other departments, ministries, branches and localities in implementing defence foreign affairs.

Fifthly, step up the work of information and propaganda for defence foreign affairs. In particular, focus on highlighting the results of defence international integration and foreign affairs in the 2015 – 2020 period; success of the 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship and the results of the UN Security Council Non-Permanent Member for 2020-2021 term. At the same time, highlighting the success of Covid-19 epidemic control; results of overcoming the consequences of war; humanitarian assistance, disaster relief; protecting national sovereignty and security on national, sea and island borders; border foreign affairs; results of Vietnam's participation in UN peacekeeping operations.

Finally, pay attention to training, fostering and building the contingent of cadres and staff engaged in foreign affairs in the entire army; step up the application of information technology and advanced and modern technical achievements into defence foreign affairs to enhance the capacity of defence international integration and foreign affairs in the new situation.

Sr. Lt. Gen. HOANG XUAN CHIEN, Member of the Party Central Committee, Member of the Central Military Commission, Deputy Minister of National Defence

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