Last update 8/4/2011 5:22:00 PM (GMT+7)

Vietnam to have modern submarine brigade

VietNamNet Bridge - General Phung Quang Thanh told the media on August 3, after he was re-elected as the Defense Minister, that Vietnam will have a submarine brigade in five to six years to defend the country. The brigade will consist of six Kilo 636-class subs, he said.

General Phung Quang Thanh
The government will report to the National Assembly (NA) about the situation in the East Sea at this NA session. What is the role of the army in maintaining marine sovereignty and protect fishermen?

We have assigned the navy, marine police and border guard agencies as the core forces to defend our marine sovereignty and security. We have to defend territorial sovereignty and protect our fishermen who work in Vietnam’s waters. Rescue is also an important task because accidents happen daily in the sea. Vietnamese navy must have good relationships with neighboring countries to maintain marine security together.

How will Vietnam build up a modern naval force to defend the country’s sovereignty?

Building a strong army was mentioned in the 11th Party Congress of Vietnam, which focused on major arms as fortifying navy, air forces, communication, and electronic combat. It aims to strengthen management and defense to protect stability and peace.

Training skillful military personnel to operate state-of-the-art weapons and equipment is also counted as one of the targets.

We need large capital to import equipment for technical arms like navy, air defense, etc. As our budget is limited, we have to purchase equipment gradually. Vietnam can only build up a modern navy in a long time.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said that Vietnam would buy six submarines and many modern aircrafts. When will Vietnam receive these vehicles?

It is part of Vietnam’s long-term project till 2020. But in 5-6 coming years, we will have a submarine brigade with six kilo 636-class subs.

But, I have to repeat that buying submarines, missiles, fighter jets and other equipment is for self-defense of Vietnam’s sovereignty. It’s definitely not meant a menace to regional nations.

This is not an arms race. It is a common trend in the world that accompanies economic developments. Armies build up their strength to defend their sovereignty. It’s a normal job of nations, including Vietnam. Our country is poor so we can purchase weapons up to our ability.

There are different viewpoints on settling disputes in the East Sea. Some only want to solve the disputes bilaterally, but some want to solve them multilaterally. What is your standpoint?

When I met with naval commanders of ASEAN countries, I told them Vietnam’s viewpoint very clearly. Bilateral disputes will be solved bilaterally. For example, Vietnam and China have disputes over Vietnam’s Hoang Sa (Paracel) Archipelago and the two sides are discussing on demarcation of the Tonkin Gulf’s entrance. These issues will be negotiated bilaterally between Vietnam and China, under international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS).

Multilateral disputes like the disputes over the Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago, which involve Vietnam, China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei.., must be solved by involved parties. China’s nine-dot line in the East Sea harms sovereignty of many countries, so it must be solved multilaterally.

ASEAN countries have the same voice. The fifth ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, released a joint declaration: disputes in the East Sea must be solved by peaceful measures based on international law, the UNCLOS under the spirit of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC). Peaceful settlement is negotiation through diplomatic channels between ASEAN and China, not between China with each ASEAN state member.

In early July, Oleg Azizov, a representative of the Russian Defense Export Group, said that Vietnam signed a contract to buy six submarines. Russia will begin hand over the ships to Vietnam as of 2014. Russia will also assist Vietnam to build bases for this vehicle and a maintenance workshop.