Resolving conflict in an increasingly complicated security environment
Senior Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh, deputy minister of national defense for Vietnam
The Indo-Asia-Pacific region has an increasingly important role as a driving force for development in the world economy. Southeast Asia, with the birth of the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] community, has become a positive factor, with broadening integration, increasing linkages, binding interests, and as the center of existing and emerging regional security structures.
Nonetheless, the regional security situation continues to have latent complicating factors, such as terrorism, nuclear threats, territorial and border disputes, maritime security and increasingly nontraditional security challenges. Intraregional disputes are the cause of much unease, and though not yet at the point of open conflict, they display potential indicators that need forecasting, prevention and timely resolution.
The situation comes from differences in interest, ambition and strategic competition. It is inconsistency between words and actions — a dispute-settlement style of inequality and double standard. Furthermore, it is an imposing demeanor and an insular, egoistic pursuit of interests, without thought to the interests of other countries, regional interests and the international community. If not settled effectively and with full responsibility for peace and stability, [they] will lead to the threat of conflict.
If a conflict arises — on whatever scale, whether of greater or lesser intensity, local or global, intrastate or interstate, ethnic or religious, political or economic, environmental or cultural — the peak of which is military conflict, the consequences will be great.
No nation wants a conflict to happen, so why do these regional security challenges exist? Why is the subject of preventing and resolving conflict preoccupying the attention of all nations? It is because there are still differences in common perception of interest, lack of confidence in international strategies and failure to abide by international law.
In such a context, we need a more practical outlook in our development cooperation and settlement of disputes. We need both to endeavor and cooperate to settle differences and develop together for the common strategic interest of each nation and of the region.
Whether cooperating or fighting, all must be done with a spirit of equality and respect for principles of international law.
Every nation bases itself on the national interest of its own people to cooperate and develop as well as to settle disputes. The national interests of a people need to be looked at objectively and appropriately, have a sound basis, and be based on a harmonious relationship vis-à-vis the interests of other states and of the international community.
Strengthening cooperation in multilateral organizations is crucial in settling disputes and checking the threat of conflict. The Shangri-La Dialogue is proof of the spirit of cooperation and the struggle to settle differences, to prevent conflict, and to maintain an environment of peace and stability for the region and the world.
Vietnam is determined to preserve its independence and autonomy — seen as its highest principles — both cooperating and endeavoring to develop as a country and settle disputes. Vietnam relies foremost on its own strength to protect the national interest of its people and does not go with one country to oppose another.
On the issue of the South China Sea, Vietnam and a number of ASEAN countries have declared their sovereignty in disputes with China. The problem does not just stop there, but brings with it actions of unilateral imposition, changes to the status quo along with the threat of militarization to create a deterrent strength; negative impacts on aerial, maritime and submarine security and safety; environmental destruction; and obstruction of peaceful maritime labor activities.
Vietnam policy [entails] a resolute endeavor to protect the integrity of territorial sovereignty, to protect shipping and airline security by peaceful means on the basis of international law and sincere discussions so that a code of conduct between South China Sea parties can be signed.
Senior Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh is the deputy minister of national defense for Vietnam. This text has been excerpted from a speech he delivered at the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2016 and edited to fit FORUM’s format.