Enhancing defense diplomacy to meet the requirements of national construction and defense in the new context

Senior Lieutenant General, Member of the Party Central Committee, Member of the Central Military Commission, and Deputy Minister of National Defense
Wednesday, October 19, 2022 15:18

Communist Review - As an instrument of  foreign policy led by the Party, the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defense, defense diplomacy has gained various significant achievements, making a contribution to safeguarding independence, sovereignty and national interests; maintaining a peaceful and stable environment so as to improve the prestige and position of the country and the Viet Nam People's Army (VPA) in the international arena.

Senior Lieutenant General Phan Van Giang (now General), Member of the Politburo, Minister of National Defense, Head of Vietnamese delegation to the 15th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM). The event was held virtually on June 15, 2021 _Photo: VNA

Accomplishments of defense diplomacy in the cause of national liberation, and national construction and defense

During the two resistance wars against the French colonialists and the American imperialists, defense diplomacy, in consistency with  Party's foreign policy “Viet Nam's revolution is part of the world revolution”, “helping friends is helping ourselves”, played a critical  role in strengthening the trio-alliance (Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia) fighting common enemies on the Indochinese peninsula.  

Furthermore, defense diplomacy also served as an important channel to receive assistance from the Soviet Union, China, partners and friends around the world. These support ranged from weaponry, logistics, military medicine to training of Vietnamese personnel’s combat theory, methods and skills, making     significant contributions to the building and development of the VPA, promptly satisfying demands of the resistance war. During this period, the VPA introduced its experience in force gathering, political struggle, armed struggle and the all-people defense to several armies around the world, thereby expanding military relations and increasing the prestige and position of the VPA on the international arena.

Through defense diplomacy, Viet Nam not only took advantage of and promoted the strength of international solidarity but also contributed to the solidarity among socialist countries, the combination of national strength and international power, defeating the invaders, realizing the cause of liberation of the South and reunification of the country.

During the period of national construction and defense, especially after 1986 – under the renewal guidance of the 6th Party Congress, with the “open” foreign policy, Viet Nam expanded defense cooperation relations with a handful of countries. Defense diplomacy remained an important and innovative diplomatic channel, along with state diplomacy, contributed to breaking the blockade and embargo, promoting the relation normalization with China and the US, thereby facilitating a peaceful and stable environment for national construction and defense.

During the period of international integration, the Party paid special attention to foreign affair and defense diplomacy  with the Resolution of the 8th Central Committee of the 11th term, dated October 25, 2013, “On the Strategy for National Defense in the new situation”; Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW, dated April 10, 2013, of the Politburo, “On international integration” and Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW, dated December 31, 2013, of the Central Military Commission , “On international integration and defense diplomacy to 2020 and beyond”. They have guided defense diplomacy toward numerous accomplishments in an “active, firm, flexible and effective” manner. International cooperation and defense diplomacy kept expanding in both quantity and quality, becoming a key instrument in party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people-to-people diplomacy; building an all-people national defense so as to promote the combined strength for the protection of the Fatherland early and from afar.

These significant successes have made practical contributions to the independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Fatherland; bolstering the prestige and position of the country in general and the VPA in particular in the international arena; contributing to the settlement of border and territorial dispute, building a border of peace and friendship; flexibly combining cooperation and struggle, managing defense relations with countries in the region and beyond, especially big countries, creating a position of interlacing interests, maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, preventing the risk of conflicts and wars for the cause of national construction and development; enhancing national defense potential, building a regular, elite and modern army; improving the effectiveness of combining political, military and diplomatic struggles in safeguarding the Fatherland.

In accordance with the Party's viewpoint of “combining national strength with the strength of the times, actively integrating into the world in a comprehensive manner”, defense diplomacy has expanded bilateral relations with more than 100 countries, including 5 permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and other world powers. Areas of defense cooperation are  increasingly extended and  suitable to mutual interests with the focus on delegation exchange, consultation mechanisms, dialogue, training, service cooperation, defense industry, military medicine, search and rescue, joint border patrol on land and at sea , border defense friendship exchanges; Viet Nam’s participation in and host of international military sports festivals such as Army Games, ASEAN Military Sports Festivals; highly efficient cooperation in dealing with war consequences; pollution of bombs, mines and Agent Orange/dioxin, contributing to socio-economic development in key regions across the country.

Regarding multilateral defense diplomacy, Viet Nam has actively participated in the policy formulation of defense cooperation mechanisms at regional and international level such as ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM), ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Shangri-La Dialogue, Moscow Conference on International Security, Beijing Xiangshan Forum, Seoul Defense Dialogue, etc.

Notably, the successful ASEAN Chairmanship 2020 marked a milestone in defense diplomacy. With incredible efforts, flexible and creative measures in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Viet Nam completed all national defense activities, military, ensuring efficiency, substantive content, attentive reception, absolute safety in terms of security, health, and network security. Encouraging results of defense conferences of which Viet Nam assumed the chairmanship like the 7th ADMM-14, ADMM+ and 10th Anniversary ADMM+ reaffirmed the role, position and prestige of the VPA and Viet Nam as a whole.

As a member of the United Nations, from 2014 to present, Viet Nam has dispatched over 250 officers and three rotating field hospitals to the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan, Republic of Central Africa and United Nations headquarters; Its preparation for the deployment of the Engineering Company to the UNISFA Mission in Sudan is underway. These activities reflect Viet Nam's responsibility in promoting world peace as an active member state of the United Nations

These achievements of defense diplomacy are attributed to the absolute and direct leadership of the Party in all aspects, the unified management and administration of the State, with the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defense as the direct managers; the close and effective coordination amongst ministries, departments, branches, localities, foreign channels and the determination and outstanding efforts of officials and employees in spirit of “ no impossible tasks, no unsolvable challenges”. They prove the lesson of independence and self-reliance, national interests first; creative, flexible and effective application of Marxism-Leninism on international solidarity, the Party's guideline on military and defense, Ho Chi Minh's ideology of diplomacy and diplomatic traditions into the new context.

Some tasks and solutions to enhance defense diplomacy to meet the requirements of national construction and defense in the new context

In the coming time, the political and security environment in the world and in the region is predicted to remain complicated, risky and unstable. That will pose both opportunities and challenges to the cause of building and defending the Socialist Fatherland and defense diplomacy. Strategic competition and force gathering among powerhouses is likely to be fierce. In the region and beyond, there are possibilities of conflicts, competition, fierce confrontation, even conflicts, wars between nations and newly-emerging alliances. Besides, Viet Nam is subject to a handful of hurdles to the protection of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. These risks range from uninterrupted plot of “peaceful evolution” by hostile forces; non-traditional security challenges such as natural disasters, environmental security, water security, cyber security, transnational crime, terrorism, to name a few. These problems require strengthened international cooperation.

The above situation has a direct impact on military and defense tasks, requiring defense diplomacy to continue to apply and promote the achieved results; at the same time, change the mindset and promote the pioneering role of foreign affairs in creating and maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, mobilizing external resources to develop the country, raise the country's position and prestige, successfully implementing of the task of building a revolutionary, regular, elite, gradually modernized army with some branches advancing towards modernity. By 2025, the VPA is expected to become a compact and strong army with an eye of a revolutionary, regular, elite and modern Army by 2030” (1). To this end, defense diplomacy needs to focus on the following key tasks and solutions:

Firstly, strengthening the absolute, direct leadership the Communist Party of Viet Nam, the unified management of the State and the administration of the Government, directly the Central Military Commission and the Ministry of National Defense over the defense diplomacy. Effectively implementing the foreign policy outlined in the Document of the 13th Party Congress; Resolution of the 8th Party Central Committee, term XI, dated October 25, 2013, “On the Strategy for National Defense in the New Situation”; Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW, dated April 10, 2013, of the 11th Politburo, “On international integration”; Resolution of the 11th Military Party Congress and Resolution No. 806-NQ/QUTW, dated December 31, 2013, of the Central Military Commission, “On international integration and defense diplomacy until 2020” and beyond”. Consistently carrying out the foreign policy of independence and self-reliance, utilizing internal resources and external forces in consistency with the policy of multilateralization and diversification, under the motto “more friends, less enemies”; closely combining foreign affairs with national defense and security; linking defense diplomacy with the overall strategy of party diplomacy, state diplomacy and people's diplomacy; between the diplomatic struggle and the struggle on the ground by forces to defeat all plots and tricks infringing upon Viet Nam's sovereignty, sovereign rights, jurisdiction and national interests; consolidating Viet Nam's defense posture in the national defense strategy.

Secondly, renewing mindset and raising awareness of the entire Party, people and army about the position, role and tasks of defense diplomacy in the overall foreign affairs of the Party, state diplomacy, people-to-people diplomacy intended for national construction and defense in the new situation. Defense diplomacy should be regarded as one of the pillars to promote political relations and mutual trust, and a forum for cooperation and struggle for a peaceful and stable environment in which  independence, sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the Fatherland is guarded; the Party, State, people and the socialist regime is protected; prestige and position of Viet Nam and the VPA  is enhance in the region and beyond; the cause of peace, national independence, democracy and social progress in the region and across the world is bolstered. Besides, it is necessary to take advantage of external resources to strengthen national defense potential so as to build a revolutionary, regular, elite, modern army.

Thirdly, improving the quality of forecasting research and strategic advice on defense diplomacy, especially new trends and movements in the region and the world, strategic competition, force gathering, and engagement of major countries, the situation in the East Sea; territorial borders; Paying attention to assessing and analyzing the advantages, disadvantages and direct impacts on national security and defense and foreign defense tasks. In doing so, defense diplomacy could advise the Party, the State and the Central Military Commission, the Ministry of National Defense on policy and measure formulation to timely handle relations with other countries and international organizations in line with regional and international context. Also, there needs to be close coordination between relevant ministries, departments, branches, localities and forces in forecasting research and providing in-depth strategic advice on defense diplomacy.

Fourthly, improving bilateral defense diplomacy, deepening cooperation with other countries. Promoting political trust with neighboring countries, strategic partners, comprehensive partners, ASEAN countries and traditional friends on the principle of national interest priority, equality, mutual benefit, consistent with international laws. In doing so, it is necessary to be consistent with fixed principle, but be smart, flexible in behavior, employing the statecraft “unwavering mind respond to multifaceted changes”; distinguishing “partners from foes” so as to cooperate and fight, increase cooperation, avoid conflict, confrontation, isolation, reliance, or the dilemma “take side”. Bolstering measures to enhance strategic trust, mutual understanding, “more friends, less enemies”; persistently resolving disagreements and conflicts by peaceful means in accordance with international laws and the Charter of the United Nations. Diversifying areas of defense diplomacy; effectively implementing the signed cooperation agreements, focusing on promoting the mechanisms of consultation, dialogue, cooperation between the armed forces, training, defense industry, military medicine, search and rescue, border exchange, war remediation and UN peacekeeping in line with the strengths of each partner and the needs of Viet Nam.

Fifthly, effectively implementing the Directive No. 25-CT/TW of the Secretariat “On elevating multilateral external relations in the new context”. Actively contributing to policy formulation, initiative recommendation, and responsible participation in regional and international security mechanisms and forums, especially those within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), with ASEAN playing the leading role, contributing to the building of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, maintaining peace, stability and security at regional and global level. Promoting participation in UN peacekeeping activities according to Resolution No. 130/2020/QH14, dated November 13, 2020, of the National Assembly “On joining the UN peacekeeping force” in the direction of expansion in the field, geographical area and scale.

Sixthly, actively improving the quality and efficiency of external information and propaganda work. Employing combined measures to promptly inform cadres, soldiers, people, Vietnamese compatriots and international community about foreign policies of the Party and State, the development of the country, the VPA; that will help improve the popularity of Viet Nam as a peace-loving, thriving country and a responsible member of the international community as well. Therefore, the efficiency of defense diplomacy will be promoted; support for the cause of construction and defense of the Fatherland of the Party, State and Army will be larger, distorted statements of hostile forces who employ international integration and defense diplomacy as an excuse to separate the Party and Army from our people will be brought to the light

Seventhly, perfecting legal documents on defense diplomacy in compliance with international laws and norms, and the characteristics of foreign defense activities, meeting both short and long-term requirements. In the immediate future, devising the Strategy for international integration and defense diplomacy until 2030 and beyond to submit to the National Assembly for promulgation. Strengthening coordination between agencies, units, relevant ministries, departments, branches and localities in effective implementation of defense diplomacy.

Eighthly, bettering the organization and enhancing the quality of cadres engaged in international integration and defense diplomacy. Consolidating the organizational apparatus of diplomacy agencies in the direction of streamlining, effectiveness and efficiency; implementing combined measures to nurture diplomatic contingent of solid political courage, strict discipline, capacity, healthy lifestyle, language proficiency, meeting the requirements of enhancing defense diplomacy in the new situation./.


(1) See: Documents of the 13th National Congress of Deputies, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, Vol. 1, pp. 157 - 158

This article was published in the Communist Review No. 987 (Avril 2022)