Over the past years, Vietnam’s foreign relations have reaped achievements on both bilateral and multilateral scales. Vietnam’s establishment and expansion of relations with other countries as well as the country’s engagement in and admission to international organizations and institutions on the basis of mutual benefits have helped raise the country’s role and position in the international arena. In addition, cooperation agreements to which Vietnam is a signatory have strongly contributed to the country’s sustainable economic development in line with the resolution of the 12th Party Congress.

As an important part of the foreign relations of Vietnam, defense diplomacy is tasked with establishing and developing defense relations between Vietnam and other countries on the basis of mutual respect and understanding, making contributions to strengthening national defense and security, building the armed forces,  maintaining a peaceful environment and providing favorable conditions for the implementation of the “doi moi” (renewal) cause of the country and the construction and protection of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Participating in UN peacekeeping operations helps raise Vietnam’s role and position in the international arena and contributes to security, peace and stability in the world. In the photo: Vietnam’s national flag is raised in Bentiu, South Sudan in a ceremony to transfer the duty and barrack of the level-2 field hospital from the UK to Vietnam.

In fact, along with foreign relations activities of the Party and diplomacy of the State and people-to-people diplomacy, defense diplomacy has been developing intensively and extensively in both scope and scale in cooperation with countries, international organizations and institutions, contributing to gradually integrating Vietnam’s defense sector into the world.

With remarkable outcomes in international defense cooperation, defense diplomacy has played an important role in enhancing the country’s relations and cooperation with other countries and international organizations, truly reflecting Vietnam’s defense policy of peace. It has attracted the attention and support from the international community for Vietnam to protect its legitimate interests, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and safeguarding the people, the Party and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

Actually, with intensive and extensive development of defense diplomacy, Vietnam has mobilized more resources from outside to gradually modernize weapons and technical equipment, and improve the combat capabilities of the military and the country’s defense power.

The defense diplomacy sector has made important contributions in building and consolidating trust among countries, and in maintaining an environment of peace and stability in the region and world. These important achievements affirm the new development of the Vietnamese military in the foreign relation sphere.

In the time ahead, situational developments in the world will be more complicated and unpredictable while the class struggle around the world will enter a new phase. The nature of hostile forces remains unchanged but their tactics will be more sophisticated and cunning. Meanwhile, to protect their rights, many countries will ignore international law. Besides, natural disasters and diseases are unpredictable. So high requirements will be imposed on the foreign relations sector, including defense diplomacy. Thus, it needs to embrace the Party’s and the State’s foreign policy, especially the foreign policy of proactive and active international integration, Resolution No 22 of the 11th Politburo on international integration and the Resolution of the eight meeting of the 11th Party Central Committee on the national defense strategy in the new period, and the goals and principles in the documents of the 12th National Party Congress, the specialized resolution of the Central Military Commission, and the directives of the Minister of National Defense in order to lift defense diplomacy to a new height to meet new requirements in the next five years. 

To do this, we should be active in safeguarding the Fatherland, upholding a peaceful and stable environment in the region and world in any circumstances while flexibly, creatively, and effectively implementing principles and guidelines of the foreign policy in the new context, thoroughly grasping and applying Ho Chi Minh’s thought of “Be flexible in dealing with situations,” with the core immutable goals of national interests, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity to deal with complex and unpredictable situational developments around the globe and in international relations.

In foreign relations, we should combine cooperation and struggle for national interests. Although we consider cooperation as the basic trend, we should struggle for our national interests by peaceful means. Cooperation is to promote consensus and create a basis for building trust and implementing “win-win” approaches to mutual benefits, while reducing and resolving disputes and conflicts. Struggle without using force is to achieve the set goals while preventing armed conflicts and war.

Additionally, we should actively strengthen bilateral ties and diversify multilateral relations to develop economic spearheads as a basis for sustainable national development. 

We will proactively make preparations for and engage in international organizations in our capacity while fully preparing principles, regulations, and policies for those working in international organizations, so that they can complete their assigned missions. Enhancing international cooperation and natural disaster and disease prevention and control in an active manner within our capacity will also need attention.

These are the highest goals of the foreign relations sector, for the interests of the nation and people. These goals must be achieved on the basis of abiding by international law and win-win approaches.

Therefore, to obtain the goals, the defense diplomacy sector should be aware of the relationship between the real power of the country and the foreign relations sector’s capacity to build synergy and create a firm foundation to implement the plan to protect the Fatherland from afar by peaceful means. Foreign affairs are an art that relies on not only the craft of communication, but also the real power of the country. In the era of international integration, the power of a country includes its position and prestige in the international arena, which are demonstrated through bilateral and multilateral relations and the country’s contributions to international activities and organizations for peace, friendship, cooperation and development.

The defense diplomacy sector must make active contributions in building a revolutionary, regular, elite, and gradually modernized military. Through cooperation activities, it partly builds a contingent of military cadres with a firm political stance, loyal to the revolutionary cause of the Party and the Fatherland, the latest military knowledge from the world. Also through defense trade and defense industry cooperation mechanisms, it should take advantage of sources on capital, science and technology, advanced management to modernize the military’s weapons and technical equipment to suit the conditions and military strategy of Vietnam.

In fact, the cause of building and defending the Fatherland in the new period poses highly-demanding tasks, requiring further application and promotion of traditions, innovative thinking, actions, and determination to successfully implement the Party’s viewpoint and motto on the early protection of the Fatherland from afar by peaceful means.

Written by Lieutenant General Pham Thanh Lan, former Director of the Foreign Relations under the Ministry of National Defense

Translated by Mai Huong