Arms Race May Lead to Democratic Reforms in Vietnam

Arms Race May Lead to Democratic Reforms in Vietnam

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Vietnam’s urgent need to modernize its army in face of Chinese threats may very well spur political reforms in the country.

By a strange twist of fate, Hanoi - which received its supply of increasingly sophisticated weaponry from Russia and China during the Vietnam War – is now turning to its former foe to overhaul its dated military arsenal. During Leon Panetta’s visit in Hanoi last June, Vietnam Defense Minister Gen. Phuong Quang Thanh, in fact, openly called on the Secretary of Defense to lift a ban on lethal weapons sales to the country so it could modernize its armed forces. According to VietPress USA, Vietnam’s original purchase package would include nuclear submarines of the Silo class, and F-18 and possibly F-22 stealth jet fighters.

Although Thanh didn’t give the reasons for the above request, it is no secret that Vietnam urgently needs an advanced weapons system to face off China’s aggression in the South China Sea, and even a possible land invasion by its former ally and historic enemy to the North.

The recent U.S.-Vietnam rapprochement – as evidenced by U.S. naval vessels docking in Danang and Cam Ranh harbors, Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta’s recent visits to Vietnam and the current visit to Washington of Vietnam Vice Defense Minister Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh, has emboldened Vietnam to stand up to China’s expansionism. By a stunning about-face, the Vietnam National Assembly last June approved a Law of the Sea, which asserted Vietnam’s ownership of the Paracels and Spratly archipelagoes located within the outer edges of the Vietnam continental shelf in compliance with the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. (In a submission to the United Nations in 2009, the Vietnamese communist government recognized China’s de facto sovereignty over the Paracels Archipelagoes, east of Hue, and reported only a pending dispute with Malaysia over islands in the Spratleys, south of the Paracels Islands.)

Lost in the fast-changing geo-political allegiances in the Asia-Pacific region is the fact that the post World War II policy of “containment” remains a popular ploy in today’s global political chess game. Vietnam has thus regained its strategic value in U.S. eyes as a missing link in the containment scheme and a counter-balance to the increasing threat of Chinese expansionism. And Vietnam appears only too willing to accommodate.

But an effective and lasting strategic alliance requires the partners to share the same moral values and political ideology. In other words, only a free and democratic Vietnam enjoying popular support and the support of the community of free nations can stand up to China’s aggression and effectively contribute to regional security.

On the other hand, any strengthening of important strategic cooperation, such as the contemplated arms sales to Vietnam, must have the support of U.S. Congress. But the U.S. Congress is always concerned about human rights issues. On July 9, for example, Frank Wolf, an outspoken member of Congress, requested the dismissal of U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear for having failed to pressure the Vietnamese government to improve its human records.

Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, also underscores the importance of freedom and human rights in emerging nations. During a visit to Mongolia earlier this month, she touted the recent democratic reforms in Asian countries such as Mongolia, Myanmar and East Timor. She also visiedt Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to push for greater democratic reforms across Asia.

There is a saying in Vietnam that if the Vietnamese communist government follows China, it will lose the country; and if it sides with the United States, it will lose the party. Recent events show that the Vietnamese communist leadership appears ready to accept the consequences of a closer strategic cooperation with the United States. They may have a hunch, indeed, that the United States containment scheme against China may succeed – like the one against the Soviet bloc had succeeded during the Cold War era -– and that the collapse of the Chinese communist regime is only a question of time because China is facing unsurmountable ethnic, economic, political and social dilemmas. Thus, it may be time for them to jump ship before it is too late.

If the recent collapse of long-established dictatorial regimes in North Africa and the Middle East, the subsequent political reforms in Myanmar, Mongolia and East Timor, and the seemingly relentless spread of democratic values across the globe are any indication, don’t be surprised if the long-awaited Asian Spring is already on the horizon.

Thi Quang Lam is a former general in the South Vietnamese Army and the author of “The Twenty-Five Year Century: A South Vietnamese General Remembers the Indochina War to the Fall of Saigon” and “Hell in An Loc: the 1972 Easter Invasion and the Battle that Saved South Vietnam
 

Comments

 
Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2012

It's sad that the VN government began to realize the consequence of ignoring China's aggression all this time. Looks at the history and the world, the communist model doesn't work. It is still existed today because of Western influence. Look at North Korea and South Korea, where would you prefer to live.

VN government! The only way to win China isto unite the VN people, both inside and the outside of the country. We beat them before and we can beat them again. First, you need to show that your action/decision is for the country and the people. I am sure they will be all behind you regardless where you stand.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2012

Teach Mao Zedong a lesson.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2012

Teach Mao Zedong a lesson.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2012

Your article appears to represent your wishful thinking rather than factually based analysis of current Vietnam and China conflict:
1) Distorted fact # 1: Vietnam as well as all nations sharing South China Sea protested the 9 dash or " cow tongue " map presented by China at the UN in 2009. No country accepted Chinese sovereignty claim anywhere, especially Vietnam as far as Paracels islands are concerned.
2) On July 2012, Frank Wolf wrote to State dept. complaining that Ambassador David Shear did not invite enough well known anti-government protestors to the July 4th celebration and asked for his dismissal which was denied.
3) There's no such saying in Vietnam " if the Communist government of Vietnam follows China, it will loose the country; if it sides with the US, it will loose the party ".... sounds more like a slogan used by South Vietnamese in the US.
4) Most long-established dictatorial regimes in North Africa and the Middle East that recently collapsed were US allies and received plenty military supplies from the US and recent political reforms ( cited by you ) in Myanmar, Mongolia and East Timor happen without any of these country receiving US supports. What's your point?
I share with you the wish for more democratic values globally, especially in Vietnam as well as the USA.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 20 2012

I am 100 percent agreed with the author, the Vietnamese government need china but Vietnamese do not need the Chinese. Vietnam need naval and military build up to protect herself and her people. I do not think our government will sell Vietnam F-22 but the F15SE will do the job very well, Vietnam also need LCS (Freedom class), Destroyers or Frigates (Arleigh Burk class), P-8 Pseidon. Vietnam must do research and join development of UCAV, cruise missiles, long range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Beijing with power game changer weapons. The Vietnam pass history lesson is this: The Chinese cannot be trust and should never trusted, they are the Vietmese ancestral enermy and they are the Vietnamese existential threat over last 2,000 years and continue into the future.

The world is well aware if Vietnam fall into Chinese domination then the rest of ASEAN will fall as well. Therefore it is American and Japanese national interests to help Vietnam and thr Philippines.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 21 2012

In Vietnam history our ancestors always stand up for the country. Now the Commies just has been acting as follower China and does not have guts as Viet people want the country for. If the Commies stand-up then people will support them otherwise soon or later the Commies will become traitor like "Le Chieu Thong" and Ho Chi Minh and his Commies are the same.
They can not stay side by side with Tran Hung Dao , Trung Sisters, Ngo Quyen was Ngo Dinh Diem encestor.
Ho's statute will be place in normal grave yard. HCM only the symbol for Commies stay in power. Because Ho killed his wife as mother of Nong Duc Manh. and missed treat Nguyen Thanh Trung one of Ho son. Commies never allow Trung to be Ho son otherwise Ho acts were not be spiritual for Commies any more. Ho had many wifes Nong, Tuyet Minh (Chinese lady) Nguyen thi Minh Khai. etc.. Ho was Mao's hands.
It time for change for Viet people live peaceful life as Viet again.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 21 2012

In Vietnam history our ancestors always stand up for the country. Now the Commies just has been acting as follower China and does not have guts as Viet people want the country for. If the Commies stand-up then people will support them otherwise soon or later the Commies will become traitor like "Le Chieu Thong" and Ho Chi Minh and his Commies are the same.
They can not stay side by side with Tran Hung Dao , Trung Sisters, Ngo Quyen was Ngo Dinh Diem encestor.
Ho's statute will be place in normal grave yard. HCM only the symbol for Commies stay in power. Because Ho killed his wife as mother of Nong Duc Manh. and missed treat Nguyen Thanh Trung one of Ho son. Commies never allow Trung to be Ho son otherwise Ho acts were not be spiritual for Commies any more. Ho had many wifes Nong, Tuyet Minh (Chinese lady) Nguyen thi Minh Khai. etc.. Ho was Mao's hands.
It time for change for Viet people live peaceful life as Viet again.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 22 2012

human rights? lol

show some human rights in USA first before you go to other countries, goofs.

beating your citizens for protesting about bank corruption isn't exactly human rights, torturing Guantanamo Bay detainee isn't human right, torturing POW in iraq isn't human right. corrupted goofs of america, you suffocate your own citizen and then you go around the world criticizing other countries of "human rights". vietnam is going to beat china with or without your help, american clowns.

Anonymous

Posted Jul 24 2012

Ci ny ch?c ch?n l tin v?t. ??ng minh thn c?n nh? Anh, Nh?t M? cn ch?a bn F22 cho ch? ??ng ni ??n c?u th c?a mnh...Cn tu ng?m l?p silo l lo?i no ch?a bao gi? nghe...!

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2012

Wouldnt it be a pity if after all that vietnam became a pawn in an american geopolitical game destined to divide vietnam and the communist world it struggled so long to join?

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2012

Wouldnt it be a pity if after all that vietnam became a pawn in an american geopolitical game destined to divide vietnam and the communist world it struggled so long to join?

Anonymous

Posted Jul 25 2012

I wish that Vietnamese will truly enjoy the ideals that so many of them died for during the 2 wars of independence in the last country;" Independence, Freedom, Happiness." However, the Vietnamese people died in vain for those empty ideals as the Commies had mislead its people. The VC will do everything to hang on their power. I am surprised that the author, a former ARVN general, can hold such a wishful thinking from the possible kindness of the VC.

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