On the 45th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnam-France diplomatic relations, Deputy-Defense Minister, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh wrote an article on the People’s Army Newspaper reviewing milestones in the Vietnam-France defense relations. The People’s Army Newspaper would like to present the article as follows.

After 45 years (1973-2018) of establishment, the Vietnam-France diplomatic relations have seen strong development in both depth and width. Among various areas of relations, the Vietnam-France defense cooperation has achieved specific outcomes and served as a pillar in the general bilateral relations. In fact, all these achievements did not come by chance.

With the humane tradition and strategic vision, after the resounding victory of the Dien Bien Phu Campaign, Vietnam treated French prisoners of war in a humanitarian manner, returned them to the French side, and signed the Geneva Accords on restoring peace in Vietnam and sought to establish a long-lasting friendly relationship with France. The Vietnamese people did not only attach its colonial time and war references to France, but also recognized vestige of the French culture, architecture in their country as well as France-trained Vietnamese intellectuals and scientists… Quite a few French people have better understood the history, tradition, and culture of Vietnam and shown their practices with a vision towards future. The Republic of France was the venue for the “marathon negotiations” that lasted for more than five years (May, 1968 – January, 1973) to reach the Paris Accords on restoring peace in Vietnam. During the years of embargo against Vietnam, France was the only Western country that maintained its cultural, scientific, and technological ties with Vietnam.

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh and Ms. Florence Parly, Minister of the Armed Forces of France. Photo: VNA

During the 45 years of diplomatic relations and five years of strategic partnership, France has always been an important partner of Vietnam. The Vietnam-France bilateral relations as well as the relations between the two countries in multilateral settings have been developing vigorously. In terms of economy, trade, culture, education, healthcare, etc., France is the leading European sponsor of Vietnam. As for politics, in 1993, the French President was the first head of state of a Western country to visit Vietnam since the country wrested back its independence in 1954. So far, the two countries have exchanged 11 visits of high-ranking officials. Each of the visits left an important milestone in enhancing the bilateral relations. Especially, the official visit to France of General Secretary of the Vietnam Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong at the invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron from March 25-28, 2018 has proven France’s trust and respect for the political system of Vietnam. This helped generate new power and uplift the Vietnam-France strategic partnership.

During the Vietnamese Party General Secretary’s visit, the President and other leaders of France looked back upon the past and admitted that though the bilateral relations experienced upheavals and France once had regrettable acts, the two countries had never turned their backs to each other. In the past, France had similar experiences with some countries like Vietnam and the country spent a lot of efforts and wealth on forming new relations with those countries; however, it was not very effective. Therefore, France could boast that its relationship with Vietnam is the most effective, becoming the model in international relations on the basis of respect for each other’s territorial sovereignty and independence  with the strict observance of international law, for the sake of bilateral relations, the interests of each country, the region and beyond. France especially highly valued the results of the talks between President Emmanuel Macron and General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and the high-ranking mission of Vietnam, citing that after five years of establishing the Vietnam-France strategic partnership, this is the time for the two countries to frankly and substantially exchange notes on strategic issues of mutual concern. World politicians and researchers spoke highly of the visit and the talks’ results which serve as an important hallmark to further enhance the Vietnam-France strategic partnership, contributing to peace, security and stability of the region and the world.

It is common sense that due to complicated and sensitive issues, especially for those with different political systems, and those who had once went to war against each other, their military-defense relations are influenced by vigilance and caution and are often left behind by economic, trade, cultural, education… ties, and information about military-defense ties is not very common on mass media. However, since the establishment of their diplomatic relations, especially after 2013, the Vietnam-France defense relations have been strengthened with two sides showing confidence in each other, becoming one of the pillars in the Vietnam-France strategic partnership. The Vietnam-France defense relations have taken advantage of their relations in other areas and at the same time such relations also support and provide favorable conditions for relations in other areas to flourish.

The French defense minister held that at present the bilateral strategic partnership has become complete and substantial as a relationship cannot be completed without security cooperation (the concept of security of France and Western countries is the similar to Vietnam’s concept of national safeguarding). Via defense strategy dialogues, Vietnam and France have shared the same views on a lot of security issues in the region and the world, including maritime freedom and security in the East Sea (South China Sea), nuclear crisis in the Korean Peninsula, counter-terrorism, and solutions to territorial disputes by peaceful means in accordance with international law… As a country in the Asia-Pacific region, with several former colonies, and with increasingly higher interests in the region, France considers Asia-Pacific a strategically important region and affirms its long-term presence, continues boosting economic, cultural, diplomatic cooperation while promoting defense-security ties and cooperation. France highly appreciates the role and prestige of Vietnam in the region and considers Vietnam a key “connection point” to improve relations and increase strategic interests with ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific region. France warmly welcomes the support and practical initiatives of Vietnam for France to soon join the ADDM+ mechanism officially, to increase the presence of France for peace, security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Holding onto the results of cooperation in previous years, in the official visit to France of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, the two sides affirmed the wish to further develop defense ties and cooperation in the overall picture of the Vietnam-France strategic partnership; strengthen the defense strategy dialogue and expand defense cooperation contents in new forms and with high confidence. Vietnam and France advocate French military ships to visit Vietnam’s ports for courtesy or technical purposes. The two sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation between defense industry groups and enterprises and research in the manufacturing of dual-purpose equipment; continue cooperation in training, scientific research, and expansion of research cooperation on tropical diseases and treatment of critical diseases. France is ready to assist Vietnam in deploying its peacekeeping force to UN peacekeeping missions in French-speaking countries.

The signed documents and directions for the bilateral defense cooperation in the coming time have concretized the contents in the talks between the two top leaders of Vietnam and France, in accordance with the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, and multilateralization and diversification of international relations of the Communist Party of Vietnam. At the same time, the contents show the confidence in the development of defense relations between the two countries and the openness in defense cooperation of France. Speaking at the reception for General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at Élysée Palace on March 27, 2018, President Emmanuel Macron affirmed that Vietnam and France come together in paying respect for international law and freedom of navigation. It is important in this regard that France is a maritime power in the region and able to support its partners to be strategically self-reliant. The French Defense Minister said that France wants to be not only a strategic partner, but also a ‘reliable strategic partner” in the future, standing side by side with Vietnam in both good and hard times. The statement of the French Defense Minister once again affirmed the significance of the strategic partnership, the important role of foreign relations in general and defense relations in particular in reinforcing strategic trust and combination with strategic benefits, making use of international support to prevent and repel threats and challenges for the early safeguarding of the Fatherland.

Results from the cooperation between Vietnam and France in general and in defense in particular reflect the trust, good will, and respect of France for Vietnam. The results have proven the position of high-ranking leaders of France: The Government of France may change in different periods, but the Vietnam-France relations would never change. The foundation for the Vietnam-France strategic partnership is made from the sound political policy, the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, and multilateralization and diversification of international relations of the Communist Party of Vietnam, the harmony between national interests and those of the region and world, the strategic position and prestige in the international arena of Vietnam, and the respect and observance of international law in dealing with existing historical issues, contradiction, and territorial disputes.

With full awareness of the significance and important role of Vietnam-France defense relations in the construction and protection cause of the nation, under the viewpoint of the foreign policy of the Party, we should effectively implement the project “Defense integration towards 2020, with vision towards 2030,” defense cooperation agreements signed during the official visit of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to France and documents to be signed in the upcoming visit of the Vietnamese defense minister to France.

Written by Deputy-Defense Minister, Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh

Translated by Huu Duong