Do not let Vietnam be a victim in the competition between powers
VietNamNet introduces the last part of the round table talks with Mr. Bui The Giang, Director of the Department for Western European and North American Affairs of the Central Committee for Foreign Relations, and Dr. Anders Corr (Harvard), an international political analyst, who worked for many years for the US Department of Defense.

Part 1: Occupying territory of others does not help one to be a great power

Part 2: "No one wants to choose between the United States and China"

VietNamNet: The idea of establishing a US-led multilateral military cooperation organization to ensure secure security in Asia-Pacific, as we have just analyzed, is nor feasible in the current political climate. What framework, then, will help to ensure peace and stability in the region?

Bui The Giang: When looking for a mechanism to ensure peace, stability in Asia-Pacific, we should note two points.

First, we need to consider, predict the source of conflict or dispute. Can you foresee a conflict in the mainland, such as country A invading country B?

Meanwhile, we are witnessing ongoing disputes at sea. Therefore, in order to prevent negative developments in such disputes, at least we have the Joint Declaration on the East Sea (DOC) concluded between ASEAN and China 12 years ago. 

Referring to ASEAN, it implies the four claimant states and the other two are China and Taiwan. DOC can be understood as such a mechanism but we all understand that DOC is not legally binding. Therefore, we are trying to advance to a Code of Conduct (COC) for the East Sea. 

ASEAN countries have worked hard together to draft the framework and, in a positive way, recently China issued signals that they will be involved in the COC process.

It's a step forward. We all wish to conclude COC negotiations as soon as possible so that COC can play a binding role for all parties involved in the dispute, at least in the present time.

Secondly, deeper cooperation among nations, including increased trade and economic exchanges, can bring greater benefits, forcing nations to consider when they intend to do something that makes the situation to become tense. Therefore, Vietnam always supports positive economic cooperation initiatives.

However, whenever an economic and trade cooperation initiative is launched, we need to study it thoroughly. These initiatives can benefit all countries in the region but it can also be an unfair playing field. 

Because when you are in a position to eliminate other countries, other players, it will not be a fair win-win like the slogan that many people still love. It also does not necessarily mean that the game has a total of zero (the winners get all the benefits, the losers bear all the damage) but not the game to win fair. He can win 90% and I only get 10%.

I cannot accept such initiatives. Of course, in today's competitive world, when all nations seem to put their own interests first, they are willing to do anything in their power to protect and extend that interest. 

So, again, we need to be open-minded and alert, and seriously consider any initiative. Whether it is the "Chinese Dream" or the "Asia-Pacific Dream", or the "Silk Road on the Sea", or the G20, etc, we must carefully study every initiative and review your ability to become an equal and independent member in it.

Dr. Corr: I agree with you. In the nineteenth-century realism, the nations that fought to gain a few pieces of territory always sought to win other interests.

But I believe this is changing in many countries. For example, when the Philippines asked the US to leave its base in the Subic Bay, one of our two most important military bases in Asia, we accepted and left. 

No problem at all. We moved to Singapore, paid for them. Once Singapore wants us to go, we will have to go because we comply with international law. We believe in territorial sovereignty of nations. We believe in international law.

I believe this is the reason why countries in Asia and Europe can now trust the United States to ensure peace and stability in the region. Of course, the US has made many mistakes but the problem is that we are currently trying to promote international law.

Do not let Vietnam be a victim in the competition between powers

Bui The Giang: I share your views on building trust not just in speech, but more importantly in actual action. I believe in the heart as well as the mind of the Vietnamese, we have never nurtured hatred with any old enemy. If not, how can we have a good relationship with the United States, France, Japan or China? 

As you know, over the past thousand years, they have carried out 12 major wars against Vietnam, but we always given our hands in friendship to them. That is our policy.

VN always keeps an open heart and a liberal mind in dealing with the world. The only thing here is that we need mutual respect for the independence and freedom that we lost so much of our bones and blood to regain. We also demand that other countries respect territorial integrity and national sovereignty.

I really admire what President Obama spoke at the UN General Assembly in 2008 right after he was elected. He said, "No one can impose their will on other people. We respect the right for countries to choose their political regime." 

I think this is an important point, and in bilateral relations with the United States, China and other countries, this becomes even more important.

That is why I carried the joint statement of President Obama and President Truong Tan Sang on July 25 in Washington DC. There is a very important point that the two countries respect each other's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and political regime. That proves that this is a very good foundation on which we can build mutual trust.

VietNamNet: The roundtable talks have been long and there are still many issues that the two guests would like to discuss. But now I want to move on to a question that many readers are wondering: How do you expect major developments in the region next year? Of course, forecasting is extremely difficult because there are always things going on beyond our expectations.

Bui The Giang: I am not good at predictions. But if you look at the flow of events that have taken place throughout the year, we can see that 2015 will be an important year for many countries. 

That is one year ahead of the 2016 presidential election. That is also an important year for Vietnam because 2016 is the year of the National Congress of the Vietnam Communist Party.

It is also an important year for China because Xi Jinping has firmly consolidated his power. He has accomplished important and necessary things. The anti-corruption campaign, for example, ended with a rather complicated happenings, sometimes fast, slow process. 

And in this region, a few days ago the election in Japan with the victory of the LPD and Komei alliance, helped strengthen the position of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In ASEAN, Malaysia will accept the chairmanship of the association. Malaysia as we know is a country with a neutral foreign policy.

Therefore, I hope that the region will be a little more peaceful and stable than this year. I look forward to the continued positive engagement of the United States in the region towards rebalancing. 

I look forward to closer cooperation between developed countries in this region such as the United States, Australia, Japan and South Korea as members of the G20 and G8 as well as with developing countries, especially middle-income countries, including Vietnam. 

As I said, ahead of the National Party Congress that is held every five years, we want a peaceful and stable environment, we want to increase cooperation so that we can prove that the goodwill of one side will be responded to positively by other parties.

Dr. Corr: I also think next year the region will be more peaceful. I believe that because China has seen many countries strongly oppose their aggressive behavior, they will become more cautious next year and thus the region may be more peaceful. 

In the United States, I think the Republican Party might win the 2016 presidential election. Even though I'm a Democrat, I think that it is possible because the Americans think that the US today is quite weak in its foreign policy and they want a stronger US in foreign policy in relation to Russia and China. So, I believe that we will see the United States become stronger in foreign affairs and in defense of international law.

VietNamNet: In order to deal with such a volatile environment, what are the options for medium and small countries like Vietnam?

Do not let Vietnam be a victim in the competition between powers

Dr. Corr: Small and medium countries cannot cope with China's pressure alone. And it would be even more wrong if they chose a military approach to resolving disputes with China. Countries in the region need to be united and need to be friends with friendly partners who are capable of supporting them like the United States. 

I do not think this is the choice of sides, because you are doing business on both sides. However, if there is any shock, it is extremely important for countries in the region to have a strong partner.

Bui The Giang: I believe that a useful option for Vietnam is to continue the policy that we set out. We will try to maintain a peaceful environment for Vietnam. This should be done as a condition, in parallel with the need to ensure respect from all other countries, other partners for independence, territorial integrity, sovereignty and national unity. 

I believe that this is very important for Vietnam, especially at this moment, after all the past experiences that I do not need to repeat here.

Independence is supreme. However, we need to distinguish between independence and isolation. This is essentially two completely different issues and I believe independence in our policy is not joining any coalition against the third party. 

Vietnam cannot let itself fall victim to any competition between two countries, or between groups. The Vietnamese have suffered enough.


Do not let Vietnam be a victim in the competition between powers