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A brief diplomatic history of Vietnam


I. A brief history of Vietnamese diplomacy
Vietnam is a country of a thousand-year history and glorious diplomacy, ranging through the dynasties of the Hung Kings, An Duong Vuong, Ngo, Dinh, former Le, Ly, Tran, latter Le and Nguyen, to the Ho Chi Minh era at present.
The new-styled Vietnamese diplomacy came into being at the same time with the founding of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam on 2nd September 1945 under the leadership of President Ho Chi Minh. The history of the Ho Chi Minh era’s diplomacy can be divided into 5 major periods.

1945 - 1946:
This was an extremely hard time for Vietnam in general and its diplomacy in particular. The newly-born independent state faced with countless challenges: the administration was newly established, the economy was broken down, the country had not been recognized by the world, its people faced repeatedly with natural calamities and had to cope with over 300,000 opposition troops from inside and outside the country. It can be said that Vietnam was in a situation of “a thousand pounds hung on one thread”.
Under the leadership of the Indochinese Communist Party, now the Communist Party of Vietnam, and its leader Ho Chi Minh, the Vietnamese diplomacy successfully implemented righteous, flexible and unwavering policies to defend the newly-born independent state. Those were illustrated in the détente with the Chinese Kuomintang in order to muster strength to fight the French invaders in Southern Vietnam; and then a détente with France by signing the Preliminary Agreement on 6th March 1946 in order to drive out the Chinese Kuomintang forces.

1946 - 1954:
Diplomacy contributed to the success of the protracted war of resistance against the French colonialists. Diplomatic activities were combined with activities on the frontline. Diplomacy carried out political activities in the international arena to gain sympathy and support from the world people, especially through establishing allies with the people of Laos and Cambodia in the fight against their common enemy; setting up good relations with Thailand, Burma, Indonesia and India. Taking advantage of the victory of the Border Campaign in 1951, the diplomatic front successfully helped Vietnam win recognition by other countries. In the early 1950s, Vietnam established diplomatic relations with China, the Soviet Union and other People’s Republic states in Asia and Eastern Europe. The socialist countries then became a very important source of supports for our resistance war against the French colonialists. In parallel with the military front, Vietnamese diplomats actively took part in the 1954 Geneva Conference on Indochina, demanding major powers to recognize fundamental national rights of the Vietnamese and Indochinese people, making remarkable contribution to liberating the north of Vietnam and bringing the Vietnamese revolution into a new stage.

1954 - 1975:
Vietnam’s Diplomacy contributed to undertaking two strategic tasks: carrying out simultaneously the struggle against the US for national salvation and the socialist construction in Northern Vietnam. Diplomatic activities became a very important front, fighting right inside the United States, promoting international support for Vietnam, forming a large international people’s front in which the Soviet Union, China, other socialist and pro-Vietnam countries in the Indochinese Peninsular are corner stones.
At the same time, the Vietnamese diplomacy kept pace with victories on the battle fields to launch political movements, commence negotiations with the US that led to the signing of the Paris Agreement on “Ending the war and restoring peace” in Vietnam (27th January 1973). The Paris Agreement was a great victory of the Vietnamese diplomatic front which forced the US army and its allies to withdraw from Vietnam, putting an end to all military activities against the country and recognizing fundamental national rights of the Vietnamese people. This helped create a very favorable conditions for the Great Spring Victory in 1975, completely liberating the south of Vietnam and bringing about national reunification.

1975 - 1986:
In this period of time, diplomacy contributed to post-war economic reconstruction and national defense. In the early years after the war ended, Vietnam established diplomatic relations with a number of countries, especially with the capitalist countries, drawing supports from many countries and international organizations for the post-war economic reconstruction and national development.
Vietnam joined the United Nations in September 1977, the Socialist Economic Community in June 1978 and signed the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty with the Soviet Union in November 1978.
Nevertheless, peace did not last long. Vietnam was forced into sending volunteer troops to back the Cambodian people in their fight against the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime. The militant solidarity among the three Indochinese countries was restored. That was the reason directly leading to the border war with China in February 1979 and the political isolation and economic blockade by China, Western countries, and ASEAN countries against Vietnam afterward.

1986 to date:
As the Vietnam Communist Party’s Sixth National Congress held in December 1986, Vietnam began its all-round reforms including those in diplomatic policies, strategies and activities.
The highest interest of Vietnam at the time was “maintaining sustainable and peaceful environment for socio-economic development”. Diplomacy was to contribute to this objective. The Thirteenth Resolution adopted by the Vietnam Communist Party’s Political Bureau (May 1988) produced a break-through for the Vietnamese diplomatic strategies and policies. In the later Party Congresses, namely the Seventh Party Congress (1991), the Eighth Party Congress (1996), the Ninth Party Congress (2001) and the Tenth Party Congress (2006), diplomatic strategies and policies were step by step revised and completed. That is the diplomatic strategy of “self-reliance, independence, peace, cooperation and development” and the policies of openness, multilateralization and diversification of international relations. “Vietnam aims at proactive economic integration and, at the same time, wants to intensify international cooperation in all other fields. Vietnam is a friend and a reliable partner with all countries in the international community, actively participating in the regional and international cooperation”.
The implementation of the above-mentioned diplomatic strategies and policies has brought about tremendous achievements. With the total withdrawal of voluntary troops from Cambodia, the Cambodian issue was settled. Vietnam successfully got out of isolation and blockade. The country continuously expanded its international relations on the path of multilateralization and diversification. Vietnam normalized with and gradually established a frame-work for sustainable relations with major powers, developed countries (so far Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 172 countries, including all major powers, entertaining economic relations with 220 foreign markets, and adhering to a number of international organizations and forums such as the UN (1977), the Non-Aligned Movement (1976), the Francophonie (1986), ASEAN (1995), ASEM (1996), and APEC (1998)).
Vietnam successfully solved several border and territorial disputes, maintaining a peaceful environment for the country. Vietnam has been proactively speeding up its international and regional integration; drawing a growing amount of ODA and FDI assistances; expanding foreign markets; and carrying out multilateral diplomatic activities.

The country’s recent diplomatic events:
- Vietnam hosted the Seventh Summit of Francophone Countries in (1997); the Seventh ASEAN Summit (1998); the Fifth ASEM Summit (2004), and the Fourteenth APEC Summit (2006).
- Vietnam became the 150th member of the WTO (November 2006).
- The United States of America gave Vietnam PNTR status (November 2006).
- Vietnam became a non-permanent member of the UNSC for the term of 2008-2009 (October 2007)
The major cause for these diplomatic achievements is that Vietnam has been carrying out a self-reliant and independent diplomatic strategy and a foreign policy of peace, cooperation and development through its open-mindedness, multilateral and diversified relations. Vietnam has been proactively integrated into the world economy. It has become a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the world community, actively participating in regional and international cooperation process.
Renovation in Vietnam is in progress. The country’s objective is that by the year 2020, Vietnam will have basically become an industrial modernized country of wealthy people, powerful nation and an equal, democratic and civilized society.

II. Outstanding characteristics of Vietnamese diplomacy
The Vietnamese foreign policies in the Ho Chi Minh’s era have the following major characteristics:
- National independence remains closely combined with socialism:
This is a corner stone for the Vietnamese Revolution and the only correct path for national liberation. The characteristic is corresponding with the current stage of social development in Vietnam and the trend of the time.
The combination of national independence and socialism is the lofty ideal which has been guiding Vietnamese diplomatic strategies, policies, and activities.
- Independence and self-reliance go in parallel with international solidarity and cooperation:
Independence and self-reliance are acknowledged and found in the formulation and implementation of Vietnam’s foreign policy. Safeguarding the legitimate national interest is a principle and primary task of Vietnamese diplomacy.
International assistance is important. Independence and self-reliance do not mean isolation. Thus, the policy is to enhance international solidarity and co-operation, satisfactorily address issues concerning relationship between a nation and the time as well as that of Vietnam and the world.
- The combination of national and the time strengths:
The October Russian Revolution opened up a new era of transition from capitalism to socialism. Ho Chi Minh was the first Vietnamese patriot to place Vietnam’s revolution in the world context. After the Second World War, the situation in the world was favorable for various nations to uphold their strength and combine it with international assistances.
In the two struggles against French Colonialism and American Imperialism, Vietnam combined successfully its national strength with the strength of the time. That is a very important element for the success of Vietnam’s struggle for national independence. In our cause of renovation, it is necessary to make a combination of the nation strength and that of the time.
- Building and developing long-lasting friendship and cooperation with neighboring countries, paying due attention to relations with major powers.
The Vietnamese people have a saying “close neighbors are even better than far-away kith and kin”. Close neighboring countries are much related to the security and development of Vietnam. That’s why Vietnamese foreign policies have always given priority to relations with close neighboring countries. Our foreign policies aim at building good friendship with neighboring countries on the basis of equality, mutual benefit, cooperation, mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity, and non-interference into each other’s internal affairs. Disputes are to be settled through negotiations.
In the era of globalization, Vietnam pays much attention to enhancing international and regional economic linkage, maintaining and developing stable friendship with its neighbors. Vietnam has promoted cooperation with ASEAN members, and member countries of various development triangles and quadrangles in the region.
Vietnam’s foreign policies give priority to establishing good relations with major powers. Consequently, Vietnam has paid due attention to building good relations with China, the United States, Japan, the Russian Federation, India, and the EU.
- Attaching great importance to the close coordination among external affairs, national defense, security, economics and culture to form synergy for development.
Gaining synergy through coordination for national defense and development is the rule that Vietnam constantly abides by in its struggles for national defense and construction. The coordination exists not only among various branches, but also among various diplomacy channels: state, party and people.
- Ho Chi Minh’s Diplomacy thoughts are the guideline for all Vietnamese diplomatic activities
Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts on diplomacy are made of a system of principles and viewpoints on international and the time’s issues. It also includes, but not contained to,  Vietnam’s strategies and tactics, policies on foreign affairs and diplomacy in the modern time. The thoughts have been manifested in diplomatic activities of late president Ho Chi Minh, the Communist Party and State of Vietnam.
The main content of Ho Chi Minh’s thoughts: fundamental national rights; national independence and socialism; self-reliance linked with international solidarity; the combination of national strength and that of the time; peace and anti-war efforts; friendship and cooperation among neighbors; taking into consideration the relations with major powers; and diplomacy is a front. Besides the thoughts, Vietnamese diplomacy inherited from President Ho Chi Minh his diplomatic approach, style and skills.
The approach consists of: foreseeing and taking advantage of opportunities; winning people’s sympathy; and using invariables to respond to variables.
Diplomatic style: independent brain-storming, self-reliance, and creativeness; flexible response; humble way of expression which can convert and convince people; a succinct style easy to read and understand.
Skills: cleverly making use of five knowings (knowing oneself, knowing others, knowing the situation and status, knowing when to stop, and knowing flexibility); Reasonable concessions; and taking advantage of dissension among the enemies.

III. A brief history of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
Period 1945-1946:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was founded on August 28th, 1945 (when the provisional cabinet was announced). Acknowledging the importance of diplomacy, President Ho Chi Minh doubled as Minister of Foreign Affairs until March 1947.
From March 1947 to August 1954, Mr. Hoang Minh Giam was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam.
On  April 7th, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh signed Decree 47 on the organization, functions and tasks of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. According to this Decree, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was divided into two parts: internal and external. The external part consisted of embassies and consulates. The internal part consisted of the ministry’s bureau which had three offices: Secretariat-Secrecy; Communication and Spokesman; and Director of Affairs (Official documents, material and accounting officers, protocols, propaganda, press, translation and interpretation, law, administrative affairs, affairs for Vietnamese overseas, politics and economy).
In the early days, the ministry had about 20 staffs whose majority were revolutionary intellectuals knowing English, French, Chinese and Japanese. Most of the high-ranking carders of the Party and Government or well-known intellectuals who spoke foreign languages participated in the Ministry’s diplomatic activities.
After the Fontainebleau Conference in September 1946, the Government set up an unofficial representative office in Paris with three staffs headed by Mr. Hoang Minh Giam. The office was closed in the end of 1947. In August 1948, the Government assigned Mr. Nguyen Duc Quy to establish a representative office in Bangkok, which was given diplomatic status. In June 1951, the office was closed as the Government of Thailand recognized the Government of Bao Đai.

Period 1947-1954:
After the breaking-out of the nation-wide resistance war in December 1946 until September 1954, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was moved from place to place in the northern Viet Bac region in Tuyen Quang, Yen Bai and Thai Nguyen Provinces. Since the early of 1951, the Ministry was moved to Don Hamlet, Minh Khai Village, Son Duong District, Tuyen Quang Province, where a memorial monument for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs was inaugurated on 25th August 2000. In October 1954, the Ministry returned to Hanoi.
After the border campaign (1951), the gate way to China and the Soviet Union was opened and diplomatic activities were intensified. At this time, the Ministry had 50 staffs. The activities of the Ministry included gathering news for diplomatic activities, providing propaganda guidance to representative offices abroad, drafting diplomatic notes, introducing to localities about countries which held diplomatic relations with Vietnam, and assigning delegates to conferences abroad. The Ministry also organized political and foreign language classes. In the early 1950s, for the first time, the Ministry sent staff to be trained in China.
In 1950, the Ministry assigned a representative to the People’s Republic of Vietnam to China, then upgraded to embassy level. In 1952, the Ministry set up an embassy in the Soviet Union. In the end of 1953 and early 1954, the Ministry established consulates in Kunming, Nanning, and Canton in China.

Period 1954-1964:
Peace was restored in the North of Vietnam. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs began teaching and training its diplomats. The Ministry implemented its tasks with a view to taking advantage of the favorable situation in the world, supporting economic and socialist construction in the northern Vietnam and the struggle for national reunification, thus raising the status of Vietnam in the international arena. From 1954 to 1964, Vietnam established diplomatic relations with 12 countries in Asia and Africa, setting up 12 embassies, 5 consulates and 2 Government representative offices in foreign countries. The National Front for Liberation of South Vietnam established liaison offices in many countries. The functions, tasks and organization of the Ministry were standardized by the Government’s Ordinance 157/CP enacted on 9th October, 1961. The Ordinance stipulated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was in charge of Government’s diplomatic activities, formulating diplomatic policies to submit to the Government for approval, being responsible for Vietnamese representative offices in foreign countries, protecting the rights of Vietnamese abroad, and facilitating foreign correspondents.
The Ministry’s staff rose from 100 to 603 in 1954. In 1957, new departments and offices were set up, such as the General Office, regional departments (Department for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, Department for Western Europe, Department for America, Department for Western Asia-Africa, Asia Department I, Asia Department II, and Department for South Vietnam) and professional departments (Protocol Department, Consulate Department, and Personnel Department). From September 1954 to April 1961, Deputy Prime Minister and then Prime Minister Pham Van Dong concurrently held the position of Minister of Foreign Affairs. From April 1961 to July 1963, Mr. Ung Van Khiem was Minister of Foreign Affairs. From July 1963 to May 1965, Mr. Xuan Thuy was Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Period 1965-1973:
Diplomacy played a strategic role as a front in the struggle against the US aggressors for national salvation. The first and foremost task of the Ministry at this time was to create profound changes in all fields, including consolidating political stance of its carders and improving the implementation of all policies by the Vietnamese Labour Party and the Government.
Regarding organizational work, the Ministry set up new units of Sub-Committee for Vietnam Affairs, Department of Documentation and Research and Department of North America. The Ministry also established new representative offices and upgraded its missions to the United Arabian Republic, Congo (Brazzaville), Tanzania and Ghana. New cadres trained by the School of Diplomacy were added to the Ministry’s staff.
From May 1965 to January 1980, Mr. Nguyen Duy Trinh was Minister of Foreign Affairs. From June 1969, Ms. Nguyen Thi Binh was Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Provisionary Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam.
Training diplomatic cadres was paid much attention by leaders of the Ministry. From 1965 to 1975, the School of Diplomacy organized three 5-year courses from which 153 graduated and two 3-year courses from which 83 graduated. The Ministry attached much importance to the organization of training classes for in-service cadres in order to meet the higher and more complicated requirements of the Ministry. Especially, in this period, the Ministry sent a lot more cadres abroad for training to raise their professional level.
By June 1970, the Ministry’s organizational structure had been fully established, ready to take on all of its major tasks. At this time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Democratic Republic of Vietnam consisted of 20 units in its headquarters, including all regional and professional departments and 30 missions abroad, including all forms of representative office such as embassy and consulate. The Ministry’s total staff reached 1200, among which junior cadres graduated from universities made up 53%.
The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam consisted of 12 domestic units, among which 6 departments were in charge of diplomatic activities, and 32 missions abroad comprising of 25 embassies, 5 liaison offices, a delegation in Paris and a delegation B. By the end of 1973, the total staff number of the Ministry was 519. 

Period 1973-1975:
After the signing of the Paris Accord on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam, the organizational work of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs entered the post-war stage. Under the guidance of the Vietnam Labour Party’s Political Bureau, the organization structures of the two ministries in the North and South Vietnam were ready to be merged.
In this period, the Ministry intensified its training activities to strengthen the staff for efficient mechanism. The Ministry set standards for diplomats and introduced new functions and tasks for heads of representative offices abroad.
By June 1975, the Ministry had 1,731 cadres in total with 28 units at its headquarters and 30 representative offices abroad. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam had a total staff of 632 people, 12 home-based units and 28 units abroad.
From 1954 to 1975, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs organized 11 Diplomatic Conferences. These regular conferences significantly improved its staff by enhancing their professionalism which greatly contributed to the achievements of the Ministry.

Period 1976 - 1986:
On 25th June, 1976, the National Assembly declared the country a reunified state with the official name of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This was a legal basis for the Foreign Ministries of the two parts of Vietnam to officially merge into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
From 1976 to 1980, Vietnam established more representative offices abroad, most importantly those to the United Nations, Japan, the Federal Republic of Germany, Canada, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippine. Vietnam also withdrew some offices from Africa. By 1986, Vietnam had had 51 representative offices abroad.
The Ministry set up new departments such as Department of North America, Asian Department 4 and the Foreign Press Center. Foreign Affairs Office in Ho Chi Minh City and other provinces were also consolidated.
The 12th Diplomatic Conference was held in early 1976 and the 13th in May 1977. These conferences were of special importance to the building of the Vietnamese Foreign Service. At the 13th Diplomatic Conference, the Ministry formulated development strategy and standards for its diplomats. New teaching and training policies were outlined. After the conference, the Internal Affairs Department was established to improve consultation work for leaders of the Ministry.
To meet the urgent requirement of having more diplomats at managerial level, the Ministry opened its first class in mid-1978 for director apprenticeship. Shortly afterwards, the Ministry introduced regulations for director apprenticeship. Since then, more classes of this kind have been organized.
Drawing experience from director apprenticeship classes, in 1983, the Ministry introduced regulations for minister apprenticeship. In early 1984, the first class of minister apprenticeship was organized. This class consisted of 6 selected department directors, taking the job of deputy ministers under the title of assistant minister of foreign affairs. These assistants were placed in the Ministry leader board.
A series of short-term supplementary training courses on Marxism-Leninism theory, economics, international law, international relations, foreign languages, etc. were organized. Besides, the ministry has established the grass root-level agencies all over the country since 1978. This system had also been applied abroad, involving regular circulation of personnel.
Former Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach took office from January 1980 to 1991. The Ministry’s leaders attached much importance to the renewal of work methods and administrative procedures, while giving priority to research activities as well as evaluation of the world’s situation and strategic issues.
By 1986, important achievements had been reached in the building of foreign service. The Ministry’s organization was reasonably restructured. The Ministry staff was reduced to less than 2000 from 3000 by 1986. In 1987, the Ministry’s 10-year evaluation showed that the development of the ministry had induced fundamental changes, bringing about great achievements.

From 1986 to date:
Since the 6th Vietnam Communist Party’s National Congress in December 1986, the whole country in general and the foreign service in particular have ushered into a renovation period, making radical changes to the Party’ and State’s foreign activities. Vietnam foreign service has taken new steps towards meeting the requirements posed by new tasks in the course of national industrialization and international integration.
Since 2000, there have been 32 officers with Doctor’s degree, 156 with Master’s and 56 post-graduates. From 1991 to 1996, the Ministry sent a large number of officers abroad to study in different subjects, such as economics, international relations, international laws and multilateral forums.
The organizational structure of the Ministry has been well strengthened with the policy of increasing efficiency and reducing staff number. Accordingly, departments or units sharing the same functions or work area could be merged.
Especially, in August 1992, the International Relations School was upgraded to Institute for International Relations under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its key missions are to do research on international relations and train diplomats at graduate and post-graduate level. By 1992, the Institute had been assigned another task of managing all scientific research work of the Ministry.
November 10th 1993 has become an important milestone for the foreign service as the Government promulgated Decree No. 82-CP on duties, mandates and organization of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in replacement of the outdated Decree 157- CP issued on October 09th 1961. Following the Decree, the structure of Ministry of Foreign Affairs comprised 35 domestic units plus 64 representative offices abroad by 2000.
In order to raise the efficiency of diplomatic activities and standardize diplomatic officers according to international customs and practices, State President promulgated Ordinance on Diplomatic Grade on June 12th 1995.
In 1995, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its foundation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was awarded Yellow Star Order by the State.
The development history of the Vietnamese Diplomacy in the Ho Chi Minh Era over the last 60 years reflects the achievements recorded in the construction of the foreign service and its accomplished missions through all revolutionary stages, greatly contributing to the development of the country.

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Last modified 08-11-2012

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