Background Briefing:Vietnam’s New Defence WhitePaperCarlyle A. ThayerDecember 8-9, 2009
[Client name withheld] December 7
:QUESTION: Tomorrow the Ministry of National Defence is releasing a nationaldefence white paper here in Hanoi. Is this a first? What will be included: South ChinaSea issues, border issues? Is the release of a White Paper by the Defence Ministry anew development? What is its significance?ANSWER: Vietnam has produced two white papers one in 1998 and the other in2004. These are quite extensive and comprehensive documents - running more than50 pages (but in pamphlet size).White Papers are part of the ASEAN Regional Forum's confidence building andtransparency measures. All members of the ARF are encouraged to provide one.The point is to compare one version with another. The White Paper will provide anstrategic overview of how Vietnam perceives its security environment. It will alsomention border and South China Sea issues. It should mention some recentdevelopments, a new air-naval region in the south. The White Paper usually does notprovide any detail on budgets or weapons procurements. So it would be interesting tosee (a) what weapon systems are featured in photographs and discussed and (b) if Vietnam says anything about defence budget or future arms procurement (the deal forsix Kilo class subs and 12 Su-27Ks under negotiation).I am pasting below a chart comparing White Papers produced by China and eightASEAN states prepared by researchers at the U.S. National Defense University. Thisis one chart from a series of three. The first chart (not produced) shows that China hasincreased transparency over time but still lacks transparency in key areas. The thirdchart (not produced) shows that China falls behind comparable states – Australia,Japan and South Korea – in the degree of transparency measures listed on the chart.In the chart below Vietnam ranks poorly on transparency of key data when comparedto China and other regional states.
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