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Remarks by H.E. Mr. Pham Binh Minh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam at US's Council on Foreign Relations

(New York, 27th Sept 2011)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to thank the Council on Foreign Relations for organizing this interesting discussion, and thank you all for coming.

We view the Council on Foreign Relations as an important partner and appreciate your interest in the development of Viet Nam – United States relations. We recall the visit to Viet Nam by the Council in 1993 when our two countries were still preparing for normalization of relations. Last year we were delighted to receive Mr. Richard Haass and the Council delegation in Viet Nam. I believe the visit has helped members of the Council to better understand the country and people of Viet Nam in the era of Doi Moi (reform), peace, development and international integration.

Today, I am honored to have this opportunity to share with you some of our thoughts on Viet Nam’s foreign policy.

We have been pursuing a consistent foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, cooperation and development, multi-lateralization and diversification of relations, active and proactive international integration, and determined to be a friend, a reliable partner, and a responsible member of the international community. The “active and proactive international integration” orientation set by the 11th Party Congress marks an important turning point in Viet Nam’s foreign policy because it not only includes economic integration, but also all other areas such as economic – trade, politics – diplomacy, security – defense, culture and social affairs…

Viet Nam’s successful non-permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council in 2008 – 2009, Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010, cooperation with countries and the United Nations in many different fields (nuclear security and safety, climate change, realizing the Millennium Development Goals…), active preparations to take part in peace-keeping operations, and active participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are some instances of our foreign policy.

We aim to further deepen our foreign relations, upgrade relations with leading partners, of which establishment of strategic partnerships with major powers and important global economic centers is among our priorities. We have established strategic partnerships with Russia, China, India, Japan, Korea, the United Kingdom and Spain. I hope in the near future, Viet Nam will have strategic partnerships with other major powers, including the United States. At the same time we will work to strengthen our relationship with traditional friends and partners, as well as our participation in international organizations, especially the United Nations.

In terms of economic, at present the Vietnamese Government identifies the priority tasks of stabilizing the macro-economy, creating conditions for the economy to continue to develop quickly and sustainably. Together with many other comprehensive efforts, the effort to reduce and streamline public spending has helped to stabilize the macro-economy, address challenges caused by the impacts of the global economic – financial crisis, and create the necessary foundations for the realization of our 2011 – 2015 Socio-Economic Development Plan and the 2011 – 2020 Socio-Economic Development Strategy, which set the goal that by 2020, Viet Nam will become a modern-oriented industrial country. To achieve this target, during this term, our Government is focusing on 3 main tasks: (i) improve market economy institutions, with emphasis given to creating a level playing field and administrative reform; (ii) human resources development, particularly high-quality HRD; (iii) construction of an integrated infrastructure system.

At the same time, we view international economic cooperation as an important factor in Viet Nam’s economic development strategy, and this will be the priority for Viet Nam’s foreign relations in the coming years.

We are working with ASEAN countries to step into a new cooperation era pursuant to the ASEAN Charter, striving to build an ASEAN Community by 2015 based on three main pillars: politics-security, economic and socio-culture, and to promote ASEAN’s centrality in an evolving regional architecture. We hope to further promote partnerships between ASEAN and major powers through increased dialogue, cooperation, confidence building, and preventive diplomacy… with a view to developing lasting mechanisms and structure to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Asia – Pacific region. We welcome the policy of increasing cooperation with Asian countries by all countries, including United States.

As world peace and security is always our top priority, we look to the United Nations to continue its concerted and coherent efforts to promote peaceful settlement of civil wars and local conflicts in several regions of the world, especially those in North Africa and the Middle East, while preventing others from erupting. It is of long-term necessity that we cultivate the culture of peace and dialogue and promote peaceful settlement of disputes. In this regard, Viet Nam supports efforts to end violence and strengthen national reconstruction and reconciliation in Afghanistan and Iraq. As regards Palestine’s application to be a full member of the United Nations Organization, Viet Nam wishes to underline that we recognized the State of Palestine in 1988 and have always supported the just struggle of the Palestinian people for their inalienable rights, including the right to establish an independent and sovereign state that co-exists peacefully with Israel with their borderlines set up before June 1967. In this spirit, we affirm our strong support for Palestine’s efforts to soon become a full United Nations member.

It is Viet Nam’s consistent policy to support and promote general and complete disarmament, with top priority given to the three pillars of the nuclear issue, namely nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and peaceful use of nuclear energy and technology. We have been party to all major international instruments for the disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, including the CTBT, NPT, BWC and CWC. We also have been fulfilling our obligations under relevant UN mechanisms, especially those set up by the UN Security Council. We strongly support the United Nations in translating the outcome of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference and the newly concluded High-level meeting on nuclear safety and security into concrete results, revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations. Together with ASEAN fellow countries, Viet Nam is working to promote the Treaty on Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapons Free Zone and to call on states, especially nuclear weapons states, to sign and ratify the protocol annexed to the Treaty.

In implementation of our foreign policy, we view the US as a leading partner of strategic significance. When President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet decided to normalize our relations 16 years ago, it is hard to imagine our relations would one day achieved this level of development. Dialogue and consultation mechanisms have now been in place, thereby creating a strong framework for the continued growth in bilateral relations in different areas, from political-diplomatic relations, economic – trade to security, national defense, culture, education, science and technology, humanitarian assistance, etc. Economic cooperation is currently seen as the highlight in our bilateral relations, with more than $18 billion in trade turnover, and more American companies, including leading corporations are investing and expanding their markets in Viet Nam. There exist enormous potentials for our economic cooperation since both sides, together with other partners, are discussing the Trans-Pacific Partnership – one of the largest free trade agreement in the Asia – Pacific region. Other areas of cooperation have also achieved very impressive progress, particularly in people-to-people exchange. The United States is currently the destination of choice for well over 13 thousand students while Viet Nam is becoming one of the destinations of choice for American tourists. The two sides also have good cooperation in accounting for personnel missing in action, and in humanitarian activities such as HIV/AIDS, landmine clearance, solving the Agent Orange/dioxin. Additionally, security-defense cooperation has made positive progress. The Second Dialogue on Defense Policy has recently been held in Washington D.C. with the signing for the first time the Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation.

Building on the positive momentum of relations, Viet Nam and the United States are engaging in discussions about the upgrading of relations, towards a strategic partnership. In July 2010, on her visit to Vietnam on the occasion celebrating the 15th anniversary of normalization of relations, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has brought with her President Obama’s message of the United States willingness to elevate our relations to a higher level, toward a strategic partnership. I believe that, now, more than ever, is the right time for us to bring our relationship into the next phase of cooperation. Yesterday I had a very productive meeting with Secretary Clinton on this subject. It is our strong belief that this further enhancement of our relationship will help us realize a “positive, friendly, constructive, multi-sided cooperative, mutual respect and mutual beneficial relationship for peace, stability and development” as stated in the Joint Declarations by our Leaders. We are also of the view that better US - Vietnam partnership not only means promoting similarities in mutual interests, but must also take into account each other’s interests, based on a spirit of understanding in respect for independence and sovereignty. As for the bigger picture, I am confident that the Viet Nam – US partnership will continue to contribute positively to the common efforts to promote peace, stability and development in the region and over the world.

Our two countries are presented with major opportunities to further enhance and deepen our bilateral and multi-lateral cooperation. I hope the Council on Foreign Relations and other stakeholders of Viet Nam – United States relations will actively take part in this process, for the long-term benefits of our two countries and peoples and of the world.

I would like to end my remarks and am ready to listen to your comments and questions. Thank you.

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