The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam has selected “National Defense and Security” as the main theme of the joint activities Hanoi and Washington are going to conduct in March to expand their bilateral defense and security cooperation, Major Thang “Jacky” Ly, Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation, said at a press conference on Friday.
Major Ly also introduced Lieutenant Commander Artuor Perez from the U.S. Coast Guard, who has just been appointed the Deputy Chief of the Office of Defense Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy to help Vietnam enforce laws in its territorial waters.
Five key areas of defense cooperation
According to Major Ly, there are five key areas of bilateral defense cooperation, including: high-level dialogues, maritime security, search and rescue, peacekeeping operations, and humanitarian assistance.
Major Ly told reporters in the Vietnamese capital city that the U.S. has just concluded two successful high-level visits by Timothy S. Varvel, Deputy Director for Logistics, Engineering, and Security Cooperation, and Rose Gottemoeller, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security for the State Department under the high-level dialogue framework.
Later this month, the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Air Forces and Secretary of the U.S. Navy will pay a visit to Vietnam.
In the field of maritime security cooperation, the U.S. has committed itself to helping Vietnam strengthen law enforcement and beef up search and rescue activities.
Next week, the two sides will have an exchange in operating six high-speed boats that the U.S. will deliver to Vietnam as a full package, including training and maintenance.
Major Ly added some Vietnamese coast guards are learning how to operate the high-speed boats in a six-month training course held in the U.S. When these coast guards come back to Vietnam, they will show their colleagues how to use them.
The U.S. Pacific Air Forces and the Vietnamese Air Force will also collaborate in search and rescue operations, especially in plane crashes.
Under humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, the U.S. has vowed to help Vietnam enhance its capacity in coping with natural disasters, building centers for disaster management, schools, and hospitals.
Major Ly added that this year the U.S. government will provide Vietnam with $5 million more for this area.
With regard to peacekeeping operations, the U.S. has promised to help the Southeast Asian country build capacity.
In March this year, a group of U.S. experts will come to Vietnam to provide training and equipment as well as to build infrastructure for the country’s first peacekeeping center.
US wants peace, stability in East Vietnam Sea
On Friday, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius delivered his remarks about the 20 years of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Vietnam at the Vietnam National University-Hanoi.
The two countries normalized their ties in 1995, twenty years after the end of the war in Vietnam.
In his speech, Ambassador Osius mentioned the East Vietnam Sea disputes. “Like Vietnam, the United States wants peace and stability in the region, and in the [East Vietnam Sea] in particular,” he said.
“As Secretary Kerry said at the ASEAN Regional Forum, we care deeply about the way countries behave in pursuing their claims. Intimidation, coercion, or use of force by any one of the claimants … [is] unacceptable. We believe territorial disputes must be dealt with peacefully, diplomatically and in accordance with international law. We call for the exercise of self-restraint by all claimants – particularly in terms of large-scale reclamation activities to transform rocks and shoals into outposts that could easily be militarized. We support efforts by ASEAN and China toward an early conclusion of a meaningful Code of Conduct in the [East Vietnam Sea] (COC) through which half of the world’s sea cargo flows,” he added.
Talking to VnExpress News on the sidelines, the U.S. ambassador said Hanoi and Washington are making progress in building mutual trust so that both countries can gradually expand bilateral defense and security cooperation.
“We met with Vice Defense Minister [Nguyen Chi Vinh], we talked about areas we can cooperate in, including maritime security, including disaster assistance, including high-level visits, including peacekeeping [operations]. All areas we can work together are under an MoU for collaboration between the two countries signed in 2011. I believe that we can make more progress in those five areas this year,” the diplomat said.
Commenting to Tuoi Tre News on the U.S. role in the Asia Pacific region, the ambassador said, “The U.S. government made decisions a number of years ago to rebalance and re-focus our attention on the area. That is not just security focus. It is also economic and diplomatic focus and focus on all the areas I’ve just talked about at Vietnam National University today. [It’s about] how we can partner with nations in Asia Pacific, whether allies or friends, to create a stronger, more prosperous and stable Asia.”
Answering a question by the Associated Press about how to ensure stability in the East Vietnam Sea, the U.S. Ambassador answered, “There will be many other opportunities in the future to show our commitment to Vietnam in increasing its military capability because Vietnam is increasing its defensive military capacity and maritime domain awareness. That would contribute to a stable and peaceful [East Vietnam Sea].”