Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked defense forces to step up research, production and sales of military weapons as well as enhancing cooperation with foreign countries in these activities.
The request of the head of the Vietnamese government came shortly after Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich earlier this month warned of “complicated developments in the East Sea (South China Sea)” and requested the military “raising vigilance” to “get ready to fight” amid the conflict between Hanoi and Beijing in the disputed waters has been rising in recent months.
At a conference of the State Steering Committee for Construction and Development of National Defense and Security Industry on June 3, with the presence of Mr. Lich and Minister of Public Security To Lam, PM Phuc said the Ministry of Public Security had stepped in at the beginning of the study, to produce a number of equipment, professional and technical means, support instruments in service of the combat work of the people’s police force, according to the Government web portal.
Mr. Phuc was quoted as saying that “in the face of rapid changes in the global and regional situation” in the coming years, “the task of building the development of national defense and security industries is increasingly heavy, requiring a spirit of renewing the mind and having solutions and effective ways to perform it accordingly.” The PM said that there should be “a breakthrough in research capacity and production of defense and security products.”
The head of the Hanoi Government urged the defense forces to “strengthen cooperation” with foreign partners to “jointly research, develop, produce and consume products of the defense and security industry” of Vietnam. Mr. Phuc also mentioned the need to boost the export of products of Vietnam’s defense and security industry, including military weapons.
Earlier this year, the General Department of Defense Industry of Vietnam said it continued to focus on scientific and technological research, especially researching new weapons, in 2020, according to Tien Phong.
Vietnam ranks 22nd out of 138 countries and territories in the world in terms of military strength, according to Global Firepower.
According to ICD Research’s report, Vietnam’s domestic defense production capacity is relatively underdeveloped, as the Southeast Asian country also depends on foreign-based equipment manufacturers to meet military needs.
Vietnam’s defense industry is largely dominated by Russian defense equipment suppliers, but US and European suppliers have recently entered Vietnam’s defense market through trade sales, directly advanced defense systems, according to ICD Research.
Moreover, Vietnam has given priority to government-to-government agreements on procurement of defense systems.
In the Vietnam Defense White Paper released in 2019, the Hanoi government revealed that defense spending accounted for 2.36% of GDP in 2018, an increase compared to 2.23% of GDP in 2010.
Vietnam’s Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich asked the military forces to be “on high alert” in the South China Sea, to be ready to fight
General Lich has just warned about “complicated developments in the South China Sea” and asked the military to “be vigilant” to “get ready to fight” amid the conflict between Hanoi and Beijing in disputed waters has been rising in recent months.
At the May 2020 briefing meeting of the Ministry of Defense held in Hanoi on June 1, Lich was quoted by VTV and the People’s Army saying “amid complicated developments in the South China Sea” the Standing Committee of Central Military Party Committee has reported to the Politburo to “propose our measures in the current situation.”
Lich did not specify what “complicated” developments in the South China Sea were, but over the past two months, China has carried out many acts that have worried Vietnam and caused a conflict between Ha Noi and Beijing soar. These acts include sinking Vietnamese fishing vessels, announcing “standard names” for dozens of rocky islands and features in the South China Sea after announcing the establishment of “Xisha District” and “Nansha Island District,” and most recently growing and harvesting vegetables in Hoang Sa. Vietnam has also voiced and handed a note of protest against actions that Hanoi deems to be a violation of Vietnam’s sovereignty and international law.
“The General Staff has instructed units to uphold the revolutionary vigilance and determination to firmly defend the sacred sovereignty of sea and islands,” the Minister Lich said at the conference on June 1, and requested “The units thoroughly grasp the task of protecting sovereignty over the sea and islands” and “make additional adjustments to some plans, orders, and test readiness.”
The general, who heads the Ministry of Defense, asked the Vietnamese army to “ensure that under any circumstances, they should not be passive, unexpected and ready for the plan” to “ensure the victory in a successful manner and to protect the country’s independence and territorial sovereignty.”
Lich’s warning comes in the context that China is accused by the US and the international community of carrying out many activities to increase their presence in the disputed waters during the period Vietnam and other claiming states have been busy in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic.
South China Sea: Vietnam has learned “who is a close friend, who is a partner”
Vietnam has drawn clear awareness about who is “close friend coming with us in difficult times,” who is only a “partner” through what we have witnessed about security in the South China Sea during the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s Deputy Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, told the country’s and international media.
Vinh, who is responsible for foreign relations, said it was necessary to “condemn” the countries that took advantage of the Covid-19 incident to promote what he called “illegal” as well as promoting “ambition.”
In a prominent speech on April 26, 2020 on the Vietnam National Defense Channel, under the Central Military Commission and Ministry of Defense, Gen. Vinh said:
“The challenges in regional security exists with or without pandemics. It is a challenge, but it is not yet a risk.”
“Some countries are deserved to be condemned that during the Covid-19 pandemic they promote their illegal activities and ambitions. I think these activities do not benefit their countries.”
“In the meantime, we never forget other tasks to deal with security challenges, such as protecting the sovereignty we cannot forget, cannot neglect. Our navy ship and our coast guard don’t have a day off.”
“Our soldiers in Truong Sa (Spratlys) are striving not to be infected with Covid-19 and all of them are carrying out their tasks.”
Regarding foreign and international relations through security developments in the South China Sea during the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. Nguyen Chi Vinh, who is both a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam and Standing Member of the Central Military Commission Vietnam People’s Army, said:
“At times like these we will know who are our best friends, who are just partners. At times like these, we realize that when our country is in trouble, those friends will come to us.”
“So this is very important and I think the most important lesson is to properly forecast the situation and make up your mind early” Vinh said.
Vietnam over the past decade has sharply increased its defense spending to modernize its military as China continues to expand its power in the region. SIPRI data shows that Vietnam’s defense spending increased from $1.3 billion in 2006 to $5.5 billion in 2018, with an increase of more than 320%.
The Stockholm Research Institute in March this year released a report on international arms deals, which said Vietnam was among the top 10 countries that bought the most military equipment in the world.
According to the institute, between 2014 and 2018, Vietnam’s arms imports accounted for 2.9% of global sales, an increase of 78% compared to 1.8% between 2009 and 2013.
Vietnam is the only Southeast Asian country in the top 10 in recent times.
Among the top 10 countries importing weapons in the world from 2014 to 2018, half are Asian and Oceania countries including India, Australia, China, South Korea and Vietnam. Russia exports 31% to this region. Next is the US (27%) and China (9%).
A US State Department official in 2018 confirmed that Vietnam had contracts to buy military equipment with the US worth up to $ 94.7 million.
In addition to buying military equipment, the US official added that “the US Department of State also provided Vietnam with $12 million in Foreign Military Financial Supply (FMF) program in fiscal year 2017.”