Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh and his U.S. counterpart Ashton Carter have signed a Joint Vision Statement (JVS) to guide future defense cooperation between their two countries, amid the increasing tension in the East Vietnam Sea.
The two defense chiefs signed the JVS during their talks in Hanoi on Monday, the second day of Secretary Carter’s three-day visit to Vietnam at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart.
During the talks, both sides agreed that the bilateral defense cooperation during the past time has met the requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding this field signed between the two countries in 2011.
The Vietnamese official applauded the U.S. defense chief’s visit in the context that both countries are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations.
Speaking at a press conference held after the talks, both defense ministers said the two sides will take practical actions to deepen the defense ties between Vietnam and the U.S., based on the signed JVS, which defines the orientations for bilateral affiliation in defense on the basis of the MoU.
One of the important contents of the JVS is that the two nations will strengthen their cooperation in maritime security based on international law and the laws of each country, Defense Minister Thanh said.
The JVS also covers other significant activities such as addressing war aftermaths (searching for missing in action soldiers, dioxin detoxification, dealing with unexploded ordnance); the exchange of delegations; dialogue and consultation; experience sharing in search and rescue, disaster relief, peacekeeping operations; training; military medicine; and others, he said.
The JVS also aims to foster friendship, deepen mutual understanding and trust between the two countries, and step up the Vietnam-U.S. comprehensive partnership on the basis of respecting the political institutions, independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and law of each other without harming the security of other states, the Vietnamese official added.
Meanwhile, the U.S. defense chief said both sides concurred to deepen bilateral defense ties, laying the foundation for partnership in the next 20 years.
The signing of the JVS will create necessary conditions for the two defense ministries to implement their commitments, Secretary Carter said, adding that this is a new step forward in the Vietnam-U.S. defense collaboration, especially in maritime security.
He also said at the press briefing that Washington will provide US$18 million in support for the Vietnam Coast Guard to buy U.S-made patrol vessels, while assisting Hanoi in building a peacekeeping training center.
The U.S. pledges to support a Vietnam of independence, strength, prosperity and respect for human rights and the rule of law, the Vietnam News Agency quoted the Pentagon chief as saying.
Secretary Carter then announced that the U.S. Defense Department will assign a peacekeeping expert to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi to work and coordinate with officials from the Vietnamese defense ministry.
He also handed to his Vietnamese counterpart a diary and a belt belonging to a Vietnamese soldier combating in the war in Vietnam.
Regarding the East Vietnam Sea dispute, particularly China’s illegal construction of artificial islands in the area, Defense Minister Thanh reiterated Hanoi’s constant policy of settling sovereignty disputes through peaceful measures based on international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Minister Thanh emphasized that Vietnam will take no action to further complicate the tension in the sea.
In a related development, U.S. Senator John McCain, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in Hanoi last Friday that the U.S. will never recognize China’s “sovereignty” over the artificial islands it has illegally built in the East Vietnam Sea.
Senator McCain also said Beijing has deployed artillery to these man-made islands.
The U.S. official was speaking to a press briefing in Ho Chi Minh City during his Vietnam visit, where he was accompanied by other U.S. senators including Jack Reed, Joni Earst and Dan Sullivan.
In fact, China has recently built such artificial islands atop some submerged reefs that belong to Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea, despite strong protest from Hanoi as well as the international community.