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Thayer Vietnam Holds International Workshop on South China Sea, Prime Minister Visits Russia

Thayer Vietnam Holds International Workshop on South China Sea, Prime Minister Visits Russia

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
An analysis of the international workshop on the South China Sea hosted by Pham Van Dong University in Quang Ngai City in May 2013; and analysis of the visit to Russia by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.
An analysis of the international workshop on the South China Sea hosted by Pham Van Dong University in Quang Ngai City in May 2013; and analysis of the visit to Russia by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on May 23, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Background Briefing:Vietnam
s Holds InternationalWorkshop on South China Sea,Prime Minister Visits RussiaCarlyle A. ThayerMay 18, 2013
[client name deleted]Q1. Regarding your participation at the international workshop on the South ChinaSea held in Quang Ngai City: did you see something new about this kind of workshopon South China Sea issues from those sponsored by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam?ANSWER: This was the first international workshop on the South China Sea to beheld outside of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It was hosted by Pham Van DongUniversity in Quang Ngai City and included a day trip to Ly Son island to attend the
Paracels Soldiers’ Feast and Commemoration Festival
. The conference was focusedspecifically on the historical and legal claims to the Paracel and Spratly islands. Thiswas a new more focused emphasis than the previous four international workshopshosted by the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.The workshop was divided into two 2-hour sessions. The first session focused on
International Law and a Nation’s Historical S
overeignty. The second session focusedon Historical and Legal Sovereignty of Vietnam Over the Paracel and Spratly Islands.Presentations were divided equally between Vietnamese and foreign scholars,including three overseas Vietnamese from the United States and one from Taiwan.The Vietnamese presenters provided detailed historical accounts from Nguyen
Dynasty records to back up Vietnam’s historical cla
ims to sovereignty over theParacels. This was of great value to foreign participants. On Ly Son island we werealso given an opportunity to speak with two Vietnamese fishermen about theirexperiences fishing in waters around the Paracels.Q2. Someone said that Vietnam's focus now is too much on sovereignty, and not onthe "core interest" of Vietnam which is freedom of navigation. What is yourassesment?ANSWER: Vietnam, like all other littoral states, has a national interest in having itssovereignty and sovereign jurisdiction over maritime zones recognised ininternational law and by the community of nations. Your question contains twoseparate but inter-related issues. Vietnam has a national interest in protecting itssovereign jurisdiction over resources within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive EconomicZone drawn from its coastline or around features in the South China Sea that qualify
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
as islands under international law. Vietnam also has an interest in freedom of navigation on the high seas in order to reprovision islands lying outside its EEZ.Usually freedom of navigation is associated with the national interests of maritimepowers whose civilian and military ships pass through South China Sea watersincluding EEZs.Q3. The Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has just visited Russia. Thetwo governments pledged "further collaboration in national defense and security".How do you assess the cooperation between Vietnam and Russia today? Is it betterthan ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union? Is there something new in thecooperation between the countries that you perceive after this visit or it "business asusual"?ANSWER:
Vietnam is one of Russia’s major arms markets. The relationship extends
beyond sales to include training, maintenance, repair, and upgrading of major itemsof equipment or weapons platforms. It also includes co-production of patrol boatsand missiles. With Vietnam expected to take delivery of six Kilo class submarines therelationship with Russia will extend to Russian-built facilities in Cam Ranh Bay andlong-
term servicing and maintenance of Vietnam’s new submarine fleet.
Vietnam will be locked into its defence supply relationship with Russia for decades.
The determinants are compatibility with Vietnam’s current stock of weapons andequipment and affordable price and flexible terms. Prime Minister Dung’s visit was
business as usual with Russia, a relationship only recently raisesd from strategicpartnership to comprehensive strategic partnership. No doubt the Russians putforward proposals for future weapons sales for consideration.Q4. The visit of Nguyen Tan Dungto Moscow came after the trip by President XiJinping to Russia. How do you assess the "Chinese factor" in the relationshipbetween Moscow and Hanoi? Will Vietnam become an important partner of Russiain the region, as important as China?ANSWER: Russia sells weapons to both China and Vietnam. But China reportedly
reverse engineers Russian technology and violates Russia’s intellectual property
rights. This is an irritant in relations. China manufactures its big ticket Russianweapons such as the Su-30 multirole jet fighter under license. Russian also hasleverage through energy sales to China now and in the future. Russia has also beencareful not to introduce military technology that would destabilize the securitysituation in the region. For example, Russian industry sources denied media reportsthat Russia would sell fifth generation stealth fighters to China.Vietnam will never rival China for power and influence in the region. But Vietnamwill always hold a special place for Russia because of their economic and defence tiesand the large Viet-kieu community in Russia. Their collaboration in joint ventures todevelop energy resources, including hydrocarbons and nuclear energy, will grow inthe future.Vietnam is also a useful political conduit for Russia in its relations with ASEAN.
From Moscow’s p
oint of view relations with both China and Vietnam can be pursuedsimultaneously without having to make a choice. In the event of conflict Russia

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