Vietnamese general: Vietnam should buy vehicles, not weapons from U.S.

By Van Viet   May 30, 2016 | 03:53 am PT
Vietnamese general: Vietnam should buy vehicles, not weapons from U.S.
Senior Lieutenant-General and former Director of National Defense Academy Nguyen Tien Trung. Photo by VnExpress/Tung Dinh
Senior Lieutenant-General Vo Tien Trung talked to VnExpress about the meaning of U.S. President Obama’s visit to Vietnam and the lifting of a decades-old ban on the sale of lethal arms to the country.

Here is the content of the interview:

What is your evaluation on the lifting of the ban on lethal arms sales to Vietnam?

Trung: U.S. President Obama's visit to Vietnam was late, but as we used to say, it’s still better than nothing. The U.S.’s pivot to Pacific Asia was, of course, to serve their interests. Vietnam has a sensitive geo-political position with high international prestige, especially in ASEAN. The U.S. would not be able to ignore Vietnam in its foreign policy.

I have been following the Vietnam-U.S. relationship and the defense situation for years, and I was not surprised by Obama's announcement, though the decision was made too late. Lifting the arms ban is a diplomatic gesture to confirm that Vietnam-U.S. relations have reached a new high – a comprehensive partnership. Vietnam has already proved to the whole world that its military is built on the basis of self-defense. We would not buy weapons from the U.S. to threaten a third party, allies or the U.S. itself.

How would U.S. weapons systems and equipment fit into Vietnam’s military strategy for self-defense?

Trung: I would like to state clearly that Vietnam only buys weapons to protect its legitimate sovereignty. It’s our right to buy weapons from whoever we want. We don't buy weapons to fight China or any other nations; only for self-defense.

I personally think Vietnam cannot afford to buy offensive weapons from the U.S. since they are very expensive. We can produce our own infantry weapons, so why would we need to buy them?

Our goal is to aim for the development of military technology, producing some ourselves and buying technologies and modern weapons from conventional arms-dealer countries. These weapons would be more suitable to Vietnam’s weather conditions and ours army’s experience. For example, Russian weapons are not compatible with U.S. weapons systems. In combat, one glitch in the whole system could lead to serious consequences.

What weapons do you think that we will buy from the U.S.?

Trung: I think we may consider buying vehicles which are compatible with our current weapons systems, such as surveillance aircraft, patrol ships, aircrafts and lifeboats. These are vehicles, not weapons. Leaders of the Ministry of Defense and the government will certainly be considering this.

What do you think about the potential presence of the U.S. at Cam Ranh International Seaport?

Trung: Cam Ranh is divided into two major areas. The military area is highly confidential and no other country is allowed access to it, including the U.S. and other partners. We are building and developing the international area to provide logistics support for military and civilian vessels from other countries in case they need assistance. If a U.S. ship is damaged or in need of basic supplies, it can anchor at the international port.

Obama said this is the moment to develop the Vietnam-U.S. relationship. What do you think about this statement?

Trung: I think Obama was right because the current trend in the world is integration and normalization of relations. Vietnam values the idea of developing beneficial partnerships with other countries. The normalization of relations with the U.S. and other powerful states, or even former enemies, will not only benefit Vietnam, but also region and the world.

In his speech, Obama said Vietnam was always threatened by big countries and “war, no matter what the intentions may be, brings suffering and tragedy”. This shows that Obama has acknowledged the losses suffered by the Vietnamese people both in the North and South. I think in the next five to ten years or maybe longer, there will be a U.S. president who will apologize to Vietnam.

What do you think about Obama’s statement that the U.S. supports Vietnam in resolving disputes in the South China Sea (Vietnam’s East Sea) on the basis of international law?

Trung: I applaud Obama’s statement. Vietnam has a longstanding agenda to resolve all disputes through peaceful talks on the basis of international law and not through the use of force.

The Americans also have their interests in the South China Sea because it is the busiest maritime trade route in the world. We support all countries that come to the South China Sea to enhance maritime security and safety according to international law, whether it is the U.S., Russia, India, Japan, Australia or any other state.

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