Reporter: Could you please elaborate on the role of cooperation within the Inter-governmental Committee on the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center in the bilateral defense cooperation between Vietnam and Russia?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: The Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center under Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) is tasked to cooperate with Russia in technical military-defense, social, economic, and scientific and technological areas.

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh

The center was born in a very special context. In 1988, Vietnam and the former Soviet Union formed the Vietnam – Russia Joint Scientific Research and Tropical Experiment Center, the forerunner of the current Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center, to boost cooperation in doing research in such fields as tropical ecological condition, tropical durability, and tropical biomedicine. Those were new scientific and technical issues then and remain so even now. In fact, the center has well been serving the military-defense science and technology research and other socio-economic areas, especially environmental issue.

As a unit under the MND, the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center has successfully fulfilled missions assigned by the MND, serving military-defense activities as well as bilateral scientific and technological research missions assigned by the Vietnam – Russia Joint Scientific Research and Tropical Experiment Center.

Reporter: Could you share with us the results of the defense cooperation in the 2019-2020 Vietnam – Russia Year and cooperation achievements between Vietnam’s sub-committee with relevant Russian units over the past time?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: 2019 and 2020 mark special milestones in the relations between Vietnam and the former Soviet Union and the current Russian Federation. The two sides will celebrate 70 years of defense cooperation this year. Previously, in 2018, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center. The center is also preparing for the revision of the five-year cooperation with Russia. The results will give the strategic orientation for cooperation in scientific research serving military-defense missions as well as socio-economic activities in the 2020-2025 period. On this occasion, Defense Minister General Ngo Xuan Lich will visit and direct the operation of the center in its dual capacity as an agency of the MND and a joint research center of Vietnam and Russia.

Reporter: Facing the complicated development of the COVID-19 pandemic, what are the cooperation priorities that the two sides have set?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: The agreed plan between the two defense ministries outlines more than 60 events. The pandemic has partly hindered the implementation of those contents. However, the two sides have agreed that substantial events would be carried out. They include exchanges of high-level delegations and working groups, arms and service cooperation, and military science and technology cooperation. In terms of COVID-19 response, the two sides have shared military medical and scientific exchanges as part of the efforts in the prevention and control of the pandemic of the two governments.

The Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center plays a special role in the Vietnamese Government’s efforts to prevent and control the pandemic. . In 2019, the Russian Government presented the center with a mobile laboratory capable of detecting most of the current epidemics. This can be said to be the only mobile equipment in Vietnam capable of testing and verifying SARS-CoV-2-virus-infected cases. The lab has in fact worked effectively, especially in remote and border areas, as thousands of cases have been checked. The test results of the lab have been confirmed by the Ministry of Health and other state agencies as highly accurate and reliable. It has shown that the pandemic could not disrupt defense cooperation between the two countries as well as the agreed scientific and technical cooperation contents of the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center and the Inter-governmental Committee, reaffirming the leading and active role of the military in the prevention and control of the pandemic.

Reporter: What are the contributions of Russian experts to the development of the Vietnamese Sub-committee and what is their evaluation of the Vietnamese colleagues and partners in the sub-committee, Mr. Deputy Minister?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: Former Soviet and current Russian experts have been working at the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center for more than 30 years now. Although the situation has changed, they have not changed. They reserve a lot of sentiment for Vietnam and are highly responsible at work and in developing the bilateral defense relations. They are world-class experts on environment, ecology, and tropical issues. They have made active and very important contributions to the scientific research achievements of the center.

At the center, working with Russian experts is a team of Vietnamese experts, including those who studied in the former Soviet Union, the current Russian Federation, in other countries and in Vietnam. They are all qualified to work with the Russian experts, who highly appreciate their Vietnamese colleagues. Many Vietnamese experts hold international qualifications in scientific and technological fields. For example, in a research project on the marine environment, a female officer of the Vietnam - Russia Tropical Center dove and reached the human limit-depth of nearly 60 meters, which surprised the Russian experts.

Reporter: As you’ve shared, the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center mainly does research on tropical ecological issues, tropical durability and tropical biomedicine. In the coming time, how could these research areas be promoted and what is the focus of cooperation?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: The Vietnam - Russia Tropical Center is responsible for implementing basic scientific studies, serving military-defense as well as socio-economic activities. One of the most important factors concerning weapons and military equipment is durability. There must be scientific research to ensure that weapons and military equipment are not damaged or degraded in the tropical climate in Vietnam. Research on tropical ecology generally comes from military-defense perspectives related to socio-economic and environmental issues such as water security and marine environment. Therefore, research in this field is urgent and the center has been effectively doing this task. In the field of tropical biomedicine, the COVID-19 epidemic is a case in point. Vietnam had had no COVID-19 patients at the time Russia presented the mobile laboratory to the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center. We have actively and urgently trained our staff to master this equipment. When the COVID-19 came, it didn’t catch us by surprise. We immediately started the testing and treatment, meeting the requirements. We must not only prevent and control a specific disease like the COVID-19, but also stay ready and proactive to deal with all epidemics capable of breaking out on a large scale. These are areas for cooperation that Vietnamese and Russian experts will step up in the future.

Reporter: How have the achievements that the Vietnamese sub-committee in particular and the Inter-governmental Committee for the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center in general contributed to the development of the Vietnam – Russia comprehensive strategic partnership, Mr. Deputy Minister?

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh: The Vietnam-Russia comprehensive strategic partnership covers many fields and has seen a lot of achievements. Military-defense cooperation activities have also covered many aspects, such as policy cooperation, military technology cooperation, and cooperation in education and training. Among those aspects, scientific and technical cooperation is a specific feature of the Vietnam – Russia Tropical Center. The maintenance and development of the cooperation have strengthened the trust of both sides. This is a channel for the two sides to exchange science and technology issues and training for Vietnamese military officers, directly contributing to the implementation of military-defense missions as well as socio-economic development of the nation.

Another example is the treatment of dioxin pollution in recent years. The Government of Vietnam, international organizations, and some other countries have invested a lot of efforts in the cleaning-up of dioxin in Vietnam. Especially, we have cooperated with the United States, giving them a chance to fix what they have done in Vietnam. A question has been raised as follows: Which unit is responsible for evaluating the results of dioxin decontamination? In other words, the question is how can we be sure that the dioxin treatment is effective and the once-contaminated-land will cause no harm to human beings? Who can fully and scientifically confirm that the treated soil, water, mud, and air are safe for people and their living environment? This is the very mission of the Vietnam – Russian Tropical Center and the center has been doing this job well.

It can be said that scientific and technical cooperation in dealing with environmental problems is now a very hard and urgent task. The military could not stand aside watching. We have contributed a small but effective and substantial part in ensuring a sustainable environment for the nation at the present and in the future.

Reporter: Thank you very much!

Reported by Van Hieu

Translated by Huu Duong