In a speech about 40 minutes long at the Center for Strategy and International Studies (CSIS) on the afternoon of May 11, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh repeated many times that “trust, sincerity, and responsibility” are the key to building the Vietnam-US relationship and to solving global issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, disputes in the South China Sea (Vietnam calls it the East Sea) and the Russia-Ukraine war.
Respect the political system
“In the three decades following the normalization of diplomatic relations, we have witnessed the extraordinary development of the relationship between Vietnam and the United States. That relationship has blossomed, and it can be said that thanks to the efforts of both parties, cultivated with sincerity, trust, responsibility, sympathy, sharing, and respect for each other, in accordance with the interests and desires of the two countries, and people from the two nations,” Mr. Chinh opened his speech.
Regarding the Vietnam-US relationship, Mr. Chinh said that both countries have overcome their differences and reached common foundational principles for this relationship. That was stated in the Declaration on the Vietnam-US Joint Vision, on the occasion of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s official visit to the United States in 2015. The statement emphasized respect for independence, sovereignty, and the territorial integrity and political institutions of each other.
According to Mr. Chinh, the good relationship between the two countries is reflected in the economic field. The US is Vietnam’s second-largest market. Last year, despite difficulties caused by COVID-19, Vietnam-US trade still reached nearly $112 billion, an increase of nearly 280 times compared to 1995, when the two countries just started normalizing relations.
In his speech, the head of the Government of Vietnam also mentioned that the two sides need to maintain sincerity, respect, and responsibility in dealing with post-war issues, which he thinks can heal the wounds of the people of the two countries and is an “opportunity for the relationship between the two sides to reach new heights.”
“While Vietnam is implementing its development goals, the two countries are facing new opportunities to elevate this relationship to a higher level, especially in terms of economy, trade, investment, science, etc. technology, digital transformation, education, and training, combating climate change and epidemics, and the relationship between people.”
American officials have repeatedly asked the Vietnamese side to move the relationship from a comprehensive partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, but Hanoi has not yet agreed. Meanwhile, Vietnamese diplomatic officials still say that the substantive relationship between the two countries is similar to a strategic partnership, only the name is different.
Freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea is a shared responsibility
In his speech, Mr. Pham Minh Chinh also did not forget to mention the South China Sea issue, which he divided into two main issues sovereignty disputes and freedom of navigation and overflight.
The South China Sea is an area that China claims nearly 90% of the area and is the site of many tensions in recent times between China and neighboring countries, including Vietnam. Chinh started about Vietnam’s position on the South China Sea:
“Vietnam does not choose any side but chooses justice, fairness, and goodness. Based on the principles of international law and the Charter of the United Nations.”
For that reason, in resolving disputes and conflicts in the region, Vietnam always seeks to maintain peace and stability, ensure security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, and protect legitimate rights and interests of the parties, settle disputes by peaceful means by dialogue, on the basis of respect for international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Vietnam supports to support the effectiveness and full observance of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (referred to as DOC).
When it comes to maritime and aviation safety and security, Chinh cites that 60% of maritime trade passes through Asia and the South China Sea, thus safeguarding these vital shipping lanes is the responsibility of all countries in the world.
Affirming stance on Ukraine
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh also mentioned the war between Russia and Ukraine. This is also a difference in policy between the US and Vietnam. While the US supports Ukraine and condemns Russia, the Government of Vietnam maintains a neutral stance and does not condemn Russia, as demonstrated by two abstentions and one vote against the United Nations for resolutions condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“Regarding the Ukraine issue. Vietnam supports the stance of the United States, is willing to participate in the efforts and initiatives of the international community, and creates favorable conditions for dialogue among relevant parties to seek long-term and sustainable solutions.
Vietnam consistently respects the Charter of the United Nations and principles of international law, respects the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of countries, as well as legitimate interests, and settles all disputes. dispute by peaceful means, without the use of force.”
Mr. Chinh also recalled the amount of Vietnam’s humanitarian aid of $500,000 to Ukraine announced by the Vietnamese side during the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to Hanoi last week.
According to the schedule, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will have a seven-day working visit to the US, starting from May 11. Mr. Chinh will participate in the second ASEAN-US Summit on May 12-13.
On the same day Mr. Chinh departed for the US, prisoner of conscience, Ho Duc Hoa, who is serving his 13-year imprisonment since 2013, and Ms. Tran Thi Thuy, who served eight years in prison and completed her sentence in 2018, were allowed to fly to the United States under the auspices of the Viet Tan Party.
Vietnam has not given a reason why both of these human rights defenders can come to the US, especially Mr. Ho Duc Hoa, whose prison term would end in 2024.