Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, IISS
Minister, thank you very much for citing the importance of the primacy of law, the centrality of dispute resolution and the need for firmness – firmness that can often have a price – and for describing the diversity of defence relationships that France enjoys in this region, the diversity that France is building on shortly also as a consequence of your visit to Vietnam. So with that preface, it is a pleasure to invite the Vice-Minister of Vietnam to take the floor.
Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, Deputy Minister of National Defense, Vietnam
Dr John Chipman, ladies and gentlemen, one and all, I would first like to bring you greetings from Vietnam's Defense Minister, General Ngo Xuan Lich, who owing to work commitments is unable to attend the Dialogue today.
I would like to thank the organising committee and the host country, Singapore, for inviting me to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue this year and to speak at this plenary session.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Asia-Pacific region has an increasingly important role as a driving force for development in the world economy. Southeast Asia, with the birth of the ASEAN Community, has become a positive factor, with broadening integration, increasing linkages, binding interests, and as the centre of existing and emerging regional security structures. Peace, stability, cooperation and development continue as the leading trends.
Nonetheless, the regional security situation continues to have latent complicating factors that cannot be discounted, such as terrorism, nuclear threat, territorial and border disputes, maritime security and increasing non-traditional security challenges. Intra-regional disputes and differences are the cause of much unease, and though not yet at the point of open conflict, they display potential indicators that need forecasting, prevention and timely resolution.
Such a situation comes from differences in interest, ambition and strategic competition unfolding in a negative direction, in disregard of international law. It is inconsistency between words and actions – a dispute-settlement style of inequality and double standard. Furthermore, it is an imposing demeanour and an insular, egoistic pursuit of interests, without thought to the interests of other countries, regional interests and the international community. These negative and unfathomable displays, these differences and disputes are taking place; if not settled effectively and with full responsibility, for peace and stability, [they] will lead to the threat of conflict.
In the context of globalisation and the strong development of science and technology, if a conflict arises – on whatever scale, whether of greater or lesser intensity, local or global, intra-state or inter-state, ethnic or religious, political or economic, environmental or cultural – the peak of which is military conflict, the consequences will be great and unfathomable, not only for those directly involved, but also for the region and the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, no nation, whether large or small, wants a conflict to happen, so why do these regional security challenges still exist and have a tendency to increase? Why is the subject of preventing and resolving conflict preoccupying the attention of all nations? And this is the subject of this plenary session today. It is because there are still differences in common perception of interest, lack of confidence in international strategies and failure to abide by international law. Besides, structures for cooperation and diplomatic and legal instruments are still neither strong enough nor truly respected, nor have they been promoted sufficiently and effectively enough to settle disputes, differences and conflicts.
In such a context, we need a more practical and dialectical outlook in our development cooperation and settlement of disputes, differences and conflicts. In a modern world, not only is there development cooperation, but there are also disputes and differences; not only are there favourable opportunities, but there are also challenges and even threats. Therefore, we need both to endeavour and cooperate to settle differences and develop together, for the common strategic interest of each nation and of the whole region. Here is an indispensable law of the modern world that no nation can stand outside of. In a multipolar, multifaceted world, if we want to have peace and prosperity, we cannot achieave it without trying hard; but in order to obtain our goals, we cannot stay away from cooperation.
The point I want to emphasise to you today is that all nations must cooperate and endeavour to settle differences, to prevent conflict, to increase cooperation for mutual development, to build confidence, respect of legitimate interest, and at the same time endeavour openly to find a common voice and common interests in the settling of disputes and differences.
But whether cooperating or fighting, the first thing is that all must be done with a spirit of equality and respect for the principles of international law, considered as a standard by which the parties involved settle disputes and differences, minimise threats of conflict, perseveringly and calmly resolve by peaceful means, and under no circumstances use armed force or the threat of armed force.
Every nation bases itself on the national interest of its own people to cooperate and develop as well as to settle disputes and differences, seeing that as a basic criterion, a top priority in building and protecting its own nation and also in its international relations. But the national interests of a people need to be looked at objectively and appropriately, have a sound basis, and be based on a harmonious relationship vis-à-vis the interests of other states and of the international community. They must avoid unilateral imposition and failure to respect the interests of other states as well as stable peace for the region and the world.
Strengthening cooperation in multilateral organisations, such as cooperative mechanisms of the United Nations and regional security structures such as the ARF, East Asia Summit, ADMM and ADDM–Plus, is crucial in settling disputes and differences and checking the threat of conflict. In this, solidarity, the role of the centre, direction from ASEAN and the responsibility of member nations and related states, especially large countries, need to be valued, for peace and justice.
The Shangri-La Dialogue today is a representative proof of the spirit of cooperation and the struggle to settle differences, to prevent conflict, and to maintain an environment of peace and stability for the region and the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the context of such a complicated situation, Vietnam is determined to preserve its independence and autonomy – seen as its highest principles – both cooperating and endeavouring to develop as a country and settle disputes and differences. Vietnam relies foremost on its own strength to protect the national interest of its people and does not go with one country to oppose another. At the same time, it is open and transparent, respecting the voice and interests of the community in security issues common to the region and the world.
On the issue of the South China Sea, today Vietnam and a number of ASEAN countries have declared their ongoing sovereignty in disputes and differences with China. The problem does not just stop there, but brings with it actions of unilateral imposition, changes to the status quo along with the threat of militarisation to create a deterrent strength; negative impacts on aerial, maritime and submarine security and safety; environmental destruction; and obstruction of peaceful maritime labour activities. It brings with it the involvement of other states both within and outside the region, and if not settled in time will lead to a weapons race and strategic confrontation with critical and unfathomable consequences.
Vietnam policy: a resolute, persevering endeavour to protect the integrity of territorial sovereignty, to protect shipping and airline security and safety by peaceful means on the basis of international law (including the 1982 International Convention on the Law of the Sea, declarations of the parties of ASEAN and China on conduct on the South China Sea) and sincere discussions so that a Code of Conduct between South China Sea parties can soon be signed.
Meanwhile, Vietnam continues to strengthen cooperation with China and the countries involved, to build and reinforce confidence, to find common points in strategic interests, and at the same time to struggle openly with a constructive spirit. Only in this way can a solution be found that the parties involved might accept, one in accord with international laws and norms, and also to be welcomed by the international community as a positive contribution to peace and stability in the region and in the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, we in Vietnam have been through many wars for the liberation of our country, to win independence, freedom, peace, unity and territorial integrity. Because the people of Vietnam have a strong spirit of patriotism and love for peace, they are ready to sacrifice all for national independence and freedom. Besides, Vietnam's just cause has always received the support of the international community and the people of the world. War may be far behind us, yet today, even at this very minute, every family, every human being, every inch of the soil of Vietnam, must still bear the long and onerous consequences left behind by war.
Therefore, the highest objective that we always aim for is peace: peace in freedom and independence, peace in territorial sovereignty and integrity, in the warmly clothed, full-bellied happiness of the people; and at the same time a striving for the peace, security and stability of the region and the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to conclude my speech at the Dialogue today with the immortal words of President Ho Chi Minh, great leader of the people of Vietnam, a world-renowned man of culture: ‘More than anyone, the people of Vietnam are eager for peace to build their own lives. If you want peace, you must rely on principles of equality, mutual non-interference in internal affairs, mutual non-invasion, and mutual respect for national territory, integrity, sovereignty and independence. The people of Vietnam firmly believe that each and every conflict in this world can be solved by peace. They believe that all countries, regardless of their different social regimes and different forms of awareness, can all live in peace too.’