On September 2, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam will celebrate its 75th National Day. This article focuses on major milestones reached in diplomacy and defense since 1995, a pivotal year in Vietnam’s development.
|Carlyle Thayer, Emeritus Professor, the University of New South Wales, Canberra. Photo: Carl Thayer's Facebook|
In 1995 Vietnam normalized its relations with the United States and became the sixth member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In the 1990s Vietnam set itself the objective of ‘diversifying and multilateralizing’ its foreign relations and proactively integrating with the world economy. Using these objectives as a benchmark, Vietnam achieved six major diplomatic milestones.
First, Vietnam became a member of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in November 1998. Second, Vietnam became a member of the World Trade Organization in November 2006. Third, Vietnam was elected a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the first time for the 2008-09 period. Fourth, in February 2019, Hanoi was selected as the venue for the second summit meeting between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un.
Fifth, Vietnam was elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the second time for the 2020-21 period. Sixth, Vietnam as ASEAN Chair 2020 responded to COVID-19 by demonstrating decisive leadership in re-orientating ASEAN to combat this threat to public health in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam reached three major milestones in defense by modernizing its armed forces and contributing to global security.
The first milestone was reached a decade after the decision was made in 2006 to modernize Vietnam’s navy and air defense-air force. During this period Vietnam acquired Gepard-class frigates, Molniya-class guided missile Fast Attack Craft, six Varshavyanka-class diesel submarines, and Sukhoi Su-27 and Su-30 jet aircraft.
The second milestone was reached in 2008 when Vietnam’s Maritime Police were upgraded to an armed service and renamed Vietnam Coast Guard with responsibility for maritime law enforcement, search and rescue, and sovereignty protection in the East Sea (internationally known as the South China Sea).
The third milestone was reached in 2018 when Vietnam substantially upgraded its commitment to United Nations peacekeeping by deploying army medical staff to a Level II Field Hospital in the South Sudan.