top of page

Vietnamese Diplomacy, 1975-2015: From Member of the Socialist Camp to Proactive International Integr

C3S Paper No. 0003/2016

Courtesy: Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities, 1(3), 2015. 194-214.


This paper presents a broad overview of the evolution of Vietnamese diplomacy from national reunification in 1975 to the present. This forty-year timeframe is sub-divided into three parts. The first part studies Vietnam’s shift from a member of the socialist community led by the Soviet Union to a member of the international community from 1975-91. This section highlights Politburo Resolution No. 32 (July 1986), that set the policy framework for Vietnam’s policy on the Cambodian conflict, and Politburo Resolution No. 13 (May 1988) that promoted economic development as a national interest and set the framework for the pursuit of a multidirectional foreign policy.

The second part reviews the implementation of Vietnam’s foreign policy of ‘multilateralizing and diversifying’(da phuonghoa, da dang hoa) its external relations and becoming ‘a friend and reliable partner’ to all countries during the period 1991-2005. During this time the Vietnam (VCP) Party held three national congresses: the Seventh (June 1991), Eighth (June-July 1996) and Ninth (April 2001). During this period Vietnam normalized its relations with China (1991) and the United States (1995), and became a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 1995 and 1998, respectively. In 2003, Central Committee Resolution No. 8 introduced a new framework – the classification of Vietnam’s external relations into partners of cooperation (doitac) and objects of struggle (doituong).

The third part considers developments after the Tenth National Congress in 2006. During this period Vietnam’s successfully forged strategic partnerships with the major powers and key European and Southeast Asian states. Vietnam made determined efforts to proactively integrate with the global system by joining the World Trade Organisation (January 2007), becoming a non-permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council (2008-2009), and serving as ASEAN Chair and host for the inaugural meeting of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus or ADMM Plus (2010).Vietnam also entered into negotiations to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This section also discusses Vietnam’s management of its relations with China over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.

This paper concludes by noting that Vietnam has been able to make successful major strategic adjustments in its foreign policy to safeguard its sovereignty and national independence. In summary, throughout the post-Vietnam War period Vietnamese foreign policy has contributed successfully both to national development and international integration.

Part 1 –Vietnam Joins the International Community, 1975-91

For forty years after the founding of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam on September 2, 1945, the Vietnam Communist Party (VCP) and its leaders adopted a worldview that was consonant with prevailing Marxist-Leninist ideology (Thayer 1977, 1978, 1981 and 1986). Global politics was shaped and determined by the antagonistic contradictions between socialism and capitalism, or more prosaically, between friends and enemies (dich va ta). International relations between these two worlds was a struggle of ‘who will triumph over whom’ (ai thang ai).

Throughout the period 1965-85 Vietnam viewed itself as the out post of socialism on the front line in the struggle between socialism and imperialism. Vietnamese leaders felt that the socialist world owed Vietnam not only solidarity, but were obligated to provide material support.

In mid-1978 following unification, Vietnam joined the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA/COMECON) and became a member of the socialist community headed by the Soviet Union. In November 1978, the Soviet Union and Vietnam signed a twenty-five year Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. At this time Vietnam considered the Soviet Union as the cornerstone of its defence and national security policies. Vietnam’s intervention in Cambodia in December 1978 precipitated a Chinese attack on Vietnam’s northern border and hostilities lasting for over a decade.

In the early to mid-1980s Vietnam began to adopt significant changes in its national security policy.[1]At least two major factors influenced these developments. The first was the grave socio-economic domestic crisis that confronted Vietnam. The second factor was external and arose from the ‘new political thinking’ emanating from the Soviet Union under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev (Thakur and Thayer, eds., 1987).

Due to the confluence of these domestic and external factors Vietnam turned from a foreign policy structured by ideological considerations to a foreign policy framework that placed greater emphasis on national interest and pragmatic diplomacy. Vietnamese analysts now stressed global economic forces and the impact of the revolution in science and technology as key determinants of global order (Nguyen Manh Cam, 1995:223-230 and Vu Khoan, 1995:71-76). Vietnam’s changed worldview emerged gradually and the ideological framework of the past was not jettisoned entirely.

In summary, Vietnam’s ‘two world theory’ gave way to a view of an interdependent world (Palmujoki 1997). Fears of dependency and assimilation (hoanhap) gave way to a positive view of economic integration (hoi nhap) that offered opportunities as well as challenges. Vietnam’s new worldview embraced comprehensive security over the much narrower military or defence security. Nonetheless, a residue of the old worldview was reflected in the continual reference to the ‘threat of peaceful evolution’ (dienbienhoabinh) (see:  1999).

The following sections discuss two key turning points that mark Vietnam’s new foreign policy orientation: Politburo Resolution No. 32 (July 1986)and Politburo Resolution No. 13 (May 1988).[2]

Politburo Resolution No. 32.During 1985, Vietnam’s economy deteriorated to such an extent that Vietnam faced a major crisis. At the same time, the Soviet Union became increasingly critical of what it viewed as Vietnam’s misuse of its aid (Thayer 1991 and 1993:197).

In May-June 1986, the VCP Central Committee’s tenth plenum met for three weeks. Following the plenum, on July 9, 1986 the Politburo adopted Resolution No. 32 (32/BCT21) entitled, The Solution to the Cambodian Issue Must Preserve the Cambodian Revolutionary Gains and Solidarity Among Three Indochinese Countries.’ Significantly, this resolution identified ‘peace and development’ as the highest priority and laid the basis for ‘new thinking’ in the conceptualization of Vietnam’s national security policy. According to a later account, Resolution 32:

clearly set out guidelines and revised diplomatic policies, and moved toward a solution in Cambodia. The Resolution clearly stated:

-the external mission of Vietnam is to have good coordination between the strength of the people and the strength of the era, to take advantage of favourable international conditions to build socialism and defend the Fatherland, proactively create a condition for stability and economic construction.

-It is necessary to move proactively to a new stage of development, and peaceful coexistence with China, ASEAN, and the United States, and build Southeast Asia into a region of peace, stability and cooperation (Phan Doan Nam 2006:26).

In December 1986, Vietnam adopted a bold new policy of renovation or doimoi at the Sixth National Congress aimed at overcoming the domestic socio-economic crisis. Secretary General Truong Chinh’s Political Report called for, inter alia, the expansion and heightening of the effectiveness of external economic relations as one of the means of addressing the domestic economic crisis. In other words, Vietnam had decided to open itself to foreign investment from non-socialist countries (Thayer 1987).

Vietnam also decided to liquidate the Cambodian problem by withdrawing its military forces (Thayer 1987 and 1989). According to Tran Quang Co (1991), ‘The period of struggle aimed at a total victory of the Cambodian revolution, under the illusion that the “situation is irreversible,” had come to an end, and we had to acknowledge the reality of a step by step struggle to achieve a political solution for the Cambodian question.’

Politburo Resolution No. 13.On May 20, 1988, Vietnam adopted Politburo Resolution No. 13 ‘On the Tasks and Foreign Policy in the New Situation.’ Resolution No. 13 presented a new codification of foreign policy objectives that gave priority to economic development. Resolution No. 13 also used the term national interest (loiichdan toc) for the first time. The new emphasis was ‘to maintain peace, take advantage of favorable world conditions’ in order to stabilize the domestic situation and set the base for economic development over the next ten to fifteen years.

Resolution No. 13 also called for a ‘multi-directional foreign policy’ orientation that had the goal of making ‘more friends, fewer enemies’ (them ban bot thu). Resolution No. 13 not only called for a resolution of the Cambodian conflict but the normalization of relations with China[3] and developing relations with ASEAN, Japan, European countries and “step-by-step” normalizing relations with the United States (Porter 1990; Thayer 1990b:403; Chu Van Chuc 2004:4-7; Luu Doan Huynh 2004; Nguyen DyNien 2005:30; Phan Doan Nam 2006:27).

In other words, Resolution No. 13 signaled the abandonment of the ‘two worlds’ view in favour of the concept of an interdependent world. Vietnam was now poised to shift from confrontation to accommodation in its foreign policy. According to one party official, Resolution No. 13 directed that a ‘comprehensive and long-term regional policy towards Asia and Southeast Asia; be drawn up ‘as soon as possible’ (Nguyen Huu Cat 1996:28-29). Resolution No. 13 is now widely recognized as a major landmark in Vietnam’s external relations.

In March 1989, the VCP Central Committee’s sixth plenum adopted a resolution that ‘clearly pointed out the need to strongly shift the focus in foreign policy from political relations to political-economic relations’ (Nguyen DyNien 2005:31). Six months later Vietnam unilaterally withdrew the last of its armed forces from Cambodia. In October 1991, Vietnam was a signatory to the comprehensive political settlement that brought an end to the Cambodian conflict. As a result Vietnam was no longer an international pariah state subject to an aid and trade boycott. The way was opened for accommodation between Vietnam and regional states that were members of ASEAN (Thayer 1988 and 1990a).

At the same time – in 1991 – it was clear that the Soviet Union was in the process of disintegration and collapse.

Part 2 –Multilateralizing and Diversifying Foreign Relations, 1991-2005

Seventh National Party Congress.The next important elaboration of Vietnam’s ‘multi-directional foreign policy’ occurred at the Seventh National Congress from June 24-27, 1991 (Vu Khoan 1995:75 and Thayer 1993:221). The seventh congress adopted the Platform for National Construction in the Period of Transition to Socialism. This document indicated that previous ideological structures had not been abandoned. Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union and disintegration of the socialist community, the Platform declared: Vietnam would by-pass the capitalist stage and embark on a prolonged transition to socialism ‘involving many stages’ of which the present was just the ‘initial stage’(Communist Party of Vietnam 1991:49-50).

The Seventh Congress adopted an important modification to Politburo Resolution No. 13. Vietnam would now ‘diversify and multilateralize economic relations with all countries and economic organizations…’ In short, ‘Vietnam wants to become the friend of all countries in the world community, and struggle for peace, independence and development.’According to the Political Report, ‘We stand for equal and mutually beneficial co-operation with all countries regardless of different socio-political systems and on the basis of the principle of peaceful co-existence’ (Communist Party of Vietnam 1991, 134).

The Political Report, however, gave priority to relations with the Soviet Union, Laos, Cambodia, China, Cuba, other ‘communist and workers’ parties’, the ‘forces struggling for peace, national independence, democracy and social progress’, India, and the Non-Aligned Movement. It was only at the end of this list that Vietnam’s ‘new friends’ were mentioned:

To develop relations of friendship with other countries in South-East Asia and the Asia-Pacific region, and to strive for a South-East Asia of peace, friendship and co-operation. To expand equal and mutually beneficial co-operation with northern and Western European countries, Japan and other developed countries. To promote the process of normalization of relations with the United States (Communist Party of Vietnam 1991:135).

Vietnam reaped substantial foreign policy dividends following the Cambodian peace agreements. Vietnam succeeded in diversifying its foreign relations by moving from dependency on the Soviet Union to a more diverse and balanced set of external relations. In 1989, Vietnam had diplomatic relations with only twenty-three non-communist states; by 1995 this number had expanded to 163. During this period Vietnam normalized it relations all members of ASEAN, acceded to the 1976 ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and in November 1991 normalized it relations with China (Thayer 1996 and 1992c:55-62).In November 1998 Vietnam became a member of APEC.

Not all was smooth sailing however. In February 1992, China’s National People’s Congress passed the Law on Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone that claimed all islands in the South China Sea, including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagoes. China’s law now put it on a collision course with Vietnam regarding sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.This took the form of a series of maritime incidents in the 1990s precipitated by China’s efforts to explore for oil in waters falling within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone or EEZ (Thayer 1996a).

In January 1994, the VCP convened its first Mid-Term Party Conference. Secretary General Do Muoi delivered the Political Report. The conference also considered a report prepared by representatives the foreign affairs, national defence and interior on the VCP’s response to the threat of peaceful evolution.

The Political Report reaffirmed Vietnam’s commitment to the broad outlines of economic and political renovation that emerged since the seventh congress. The Political Report listed eight essential tasks to be carried out including the expansion of Vietnam’s external relations.[4]The major policy theme to emerge from the Mid-Term Conference was the priority to be given industrialization and modernization and the crucial importance of mobilizing domestic and foreign capital.

After the conference the official Vietnamese media highlighted what it termed the challenges of ‘four dangers’ facing Vietnam: the danger of being left behind (tut hau)economically by regional countries; the danger of peaceful evolution against socialism; the danger of corruption; and the danger of the breakdown of social order and security.[5]

In the period between the 1994 Mid-term Conference and the convening of the Eighth National Congress in mid-1996, Vietnam continued to pursue an open door foreign policy designed ‘to make friends with all countries’ (Vo Van Kiet 1995). These efforts paid handsome dividends. In 1993-94, the United States ended its long-standing objections to the provision of developmental assistance to Vietnam by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and gradually lifted restrictions on trade and investment with Vietnam. Vietnam thus became eligible for a variety of aid, credits and commercial loans to finance its development plans.

In July 1995, Vietnam made a major break though on the foreign policy front; it normalised relations with the United States, became ASEAN’s seventh member, and signed a framework cooperation agreement with the European Union. For the first time, Vietnam had diplomatic relations with all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and, equally importantly, with the world’s three major economic centres – Europe, North America and East Asia.

Eighth National Party Congress.The next turning point in Vietnam’s foreign policy came at the Eighth National Congress held from June 28 to July 1, 1996. For the first time delegates from Southeast Asiawere included (representing ruling parties in Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore).

The foreign policy section of the Political Report reflected the view of pragmatic policy practitioners. In the section headed  ‘the characteristics of the international system’ the report noted that the ‘scientific and technological revolution was developing at an increasingly rapid pace, thereby accelerating various production forces and the process of globalisation of the world economy and social life’(Dang Cong San Viet Nam 1996). According to Vu Khoan, ‘this was the first time we had spoken of globalisation and assessed that it was an objective trend’ (Vu Khoan, 2006).

The Political Report also juxtaposed the potential for conflict arising from competition in the areas of economics, science and technology with the potential for cooperation arising from peaceful co-existence between ‘socialist countries, communist and workers parties and revolutionary and progressive forces’ and ‘nations under different political regimes’.

Earlier drafts of the Political Report that barely mentioned ASEAN were revised as a result of the intervention by ASEAN ambassadors in Hanoi. The final version of the Political Report read:

To strengthen our relations with neighbouring countries and ASEAN member countries, to constantly consolidate our ties with traditional friendly states, and attach importance to our relations with developed countries and political-economic centres in the world while at the same time upholding the spirit of solidarity and brotherliness with developing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and with the Non-Aligned Movement.

Traditional Friends – Russia. In March 2001 Vietnam consolidated its ties with the Russian Federation, a ‘traditional friendly state,’ by signing its first strategic partnership agreement during the course of a visit by President Vladimir Putin to Hanoi (Thayer 2012a). This agreement set out broad-ranging cooperation in eight major areas: political-diplomatic, military equipment and technology, oil and gas cooperation, energy cooperation for hydro and nuclear power, trade and investment, science and technology, education and training, and culture and tourism.

Russian arms sales to Vietnam are the largest and most significant component of the strategic partnership. The Russian Federation is Vietnam’s largest provider of military equipment and technology. This assistance assists Vietnam modernize its armed forces and enhances their capacity to defend Vietnam’s sovereignty (Thayer2011, 2012b, and 2013c).

Ninth National Congress. Between the Eighth National Congress in 1996 and the Ninth National Congress in 2001, Vietnam and the United States painstakingly negotiated the terms of the United States-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA). It was clear that Vietnam’s policy elite was divided on the terms of the BTA and the risks of exposing Vietnam’s economy to the forces of globalization.

In the end consensus was reached at the VCP’s tenth plenum held in June-July 2000. The plenum decided that in order to achieve the objective of industrializing and modernizing Vietnam by 2020 Vietnam had no choice but to step up the rate of economic growth, encourage more foreign investment, and continue regional and global integration.The tenth plenum gave its approval for the new trade minister, Vu Khoan, to go to Washington to sign the BTA. Key clauses in this agreement were phased in over a period from three to nine years. For those seeking global economic integration, the BTA was a necessary step that Vietnam had to undertake in order to join the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Since 2000, Vietnam as pursued the objective of integrating Vietnam’s economy with the global economy.At the Ninth National Congress held from April 19–23, 2001, the VCP reaffirmed that ‘Vietnam wants to be a friend and a reliable partner to all nations’ by diversifying and multilateralizing its international relations (Thayer 2002a). Priority was placed on developing relations with ‘socialist, neighboring and traditional friendly states.’[6]

The Ninth Congress set the goals of overcoming underdevelopment by the year 2010 and accelerating industrialization and modernization in order to become a modern industrialized state by 2020. According to Vu Khoan (2006), the Ninth Congress resolution identified two main measures to attain this goal, ‘first, perfect the regime of a market economy with socialist characteristics, and second, integrate deeper and more fully into the various global economic regimes. Integration into the global economy will tie our economy into the regional and global economies on the basis of common rules of the game’.[7]In 2001 the United States granted Vietnam temporary normal trade relations status on a year-by-year basis.

Partners of Cooperation and Struggle. In mid-2003, the VCP Central Committee’s eighth plenum provided an important interpretation of two ideological concepts – ‘partners of cooperation’ (doitac) and ‘objects of struggle’ (doituong) in foreign relations. According to the eighth plenum’s resolution, ‘any force that plans and acts against the objectives we hold in the course of national construction and defense is the object of struggle’. And, ‘anyone who respects our independence and sovereignty, establishes and expands friendly, equal, and mutually beneficial relations with Vietnam is our partner.’

The eighth plenum resolution argued for a more nuanced dialectical application of these concepts:

with the objects of struggle, we can find areas for cooperation; with the partners, there exist interests that are contradictory and different from those of ours. We should be aware of these, thus overcoming the two tendencies, namely lacking vigilance and showing rigidity in our perception, design, and implementation of specific policies.

The eighth plenum resolution thus provided the policy rationale for Vietnam to step up cooperative activities with the United States (Thayer 2005). After the plenum Vietnam advised the United States that it would accept a long-standing invitation for its Minister of National Defence to visit Washington. Vietnam approved the first port call by a U.S. Navy warship since the Vietnam War. Vietnam and the United States also initiated a low-key counter-terrorism intelligence exchange.

Part 3 –Strategic Partnerships and Proactive International Integration, 2006-2015

Tenth National Congress.The VCP convened its tenth national party congress in Hanoi from April 18-25, 2006 (Thayer 2007). According to the Political Report, Vietnam ‘must strive to unswervingly carry out a foreign policy of… multilateral and diversified relationships while staying proactive in integrating into the world economic community and expanding international cooperation in other fields.’

Vietnam’s multi-year quest to become ‘a reliable friend with all countries’ achieved remarkable success in 2006. Former Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien offered the assessment that Vietnam’s foreign policy reached three peaks in 2006 – hosting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, gaining membership in the WTO, and unanimous nomination by the Asia bloc for non-permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council.[8] In 2007, Vietnam was overwhelmingly elected by the UN General Assembly as a non-permanent member on the Security Council for a two-year period beginning in 2008.

The sub-sections below consider Vietnam’s efforts to enhance its relations with the major powers, East Asian states, European countries and ASEAN members through strategic and comprehensive partnerships.

Major Powers

Japan: From Strategic Partner to Extensive Strategic Partner. On October 19, 2006, Prime Ministers Shinzo Abe and Nguyen Tan Dung issued a Joint Statement Toward a Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia (Thayer 2012a). This document called for frequent high-level visits and exchanges of views and the establishment of a ministerial-level Joint Cooperation Committee. In November 2007, Nguyen Minh Triet became the first Vietnamese president to make an official visit to Japan. President Triet and Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda issued a Joint Statement that included a forty-four point Agenda Toward a Strategic Partnership divided into seven substantive areas: exchanges, cooperation in policy dialogue, security and defence; comprehensive economic partnership; improvement of the legal system and administrative reforms; science and technology; climate change, environment, natural resources and technology; mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries; and cooperation in the international arena.

Point four of the Agenda addressed defence cooperation including exchanges of military delegations, high-level defence officials’ visits, and goodwill ship port calls by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. In October 2011, the Japanese and Vietnamese defence ministers met in Tokyo and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that included defence exchanges at ministerial, chief of staff and service chief level; naval goodwill visits; annual defence policy dialogue at the deputy defence minister level; cooperation in military aviation, air defence, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and personnel training including scholarships for defence personnel to study and train in Japan.

In November 2011, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited Japan to reaffirm nuclear cooperation and to initiate a defense dialogue.In January 2013 Vietnam hosted a reciprocal visit by Japanese Prime Minister Abe, his first overseas visit since taking office.

In March 2014, President Truong Tan Sang made a state visit to Japan where bilateral relations were raised to an Extensive Strategic Partnership. In August 2014, Japan offered to provide Vietnam ‘s Coast Guard with six maritime surveillance boats (Thayer 2014f).

India: A Strategic Partner. In July 2007, India and Vietnam adopted a 33-point Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership that mapped out cooperation in five major areas: political, defence and security cooperation; closer economic cooperation and commercial engagement; science and technology cooperation, cultural and technical cooperation and multilateral and regional cooperation (Thayer 2012a).

The Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership set out six areas for political, defence and security cooperation: (1) strategic dialogue at vice ministerial level; (2)  defence supplies, joint projects, training cooperation and intelligence exchanges; (3) exchange visits between their defence and security establishments; (4)  capacity building, technical assistance and information sharing with  particular attention to security of sea lanes, anti-piracy, prevention of pollution and search and rescue; (5) counter terrorism and cyber security; and (6) non-traditional security.Since 2007, defence cooperation has included high-level visits, an annual Defence Strategy Dialogue and naval port visits.

In October 2011, President Truong Tan San made a state visit to India to solicit diplomatic support and military assistance (submarine training, pilot conversion training, modernization of Nha Trang port, and the transfer of medium-sized warships). During Sang’s visit it was announced Vietnam had awarded an oil-exploration contract to an Indian company. In November 2013 VCP Secretary General Nguyen PhuTrong visited India (Thayer 2013f).

In September 2014, India’s President visited Vietnam and offered a U.S. $100 million line of credit for defense purchases. The following month Prime Minister Dung met his counterpart in New Delhi where it was announced that India would give priority to modernizing Vietnam’s armed forces. India also offered a U.S. $300 million line of credit for Vietnam to purchase Indian goods. ONGC Videsh, India’s state-owned oil company, took up Vietnam’s offer of an additional oil exploration block in the South China Sea(Thayer 2014b, 2014h and 2104j).

China: From Strategic Partnership to Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership.In June 2008, following a summit of party leaders in Beijing, China-Vietnam bilateral relations were officially raised to that of strategic partners (Thayer 2012a). A year later this was upgraded to a strategic cooperative partnership (later re-designated comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership). As strategic partners China and Vietnam have developed a dense network of party, state, defence and multilateral mechanisms to manage their bilateral relations including a Joint Steering Committee at deputy prime minister level.

China and Vietnam undertake defence cooperation in three areas: exchange of high-level visits, strategic defence and security dialogues, and joint naval patrols and port visits.

In June 2013, President Truong Tan Sang visited China. Sang and Xi Jinping agreed to double the size of their joint development area in the Gulf of Tonkin and extend cooperation between their national oil companies until 2016. In October 2013, Premier Li Keqiang visited Hanoi.[9] Subsequent developments are discussed under the heading South China Sea below.

Russia: Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. In July 2012, Vietnam and Russia raised their strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership on the occasion of a state visit by President Truong Tan Sang (Thayer 2012c).President Sang met his counterpart Vladimir Putin. President Putin paid a return visit to Vietnam in November 2013 (Thayer 2013e).

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visited Vietnam from April 5-7, 2015.During his visit Vietnam and Russia signed eight cooperation agreements in the fields of energy (oil, gas, and nuclear), investment, banking (use of national currencies to promote bilateral trade), health care, transport (aviation and rail) and agriculture.[10] Russia’s Gazprom Neft signed a framework agreement to purchase 49 percent of shares in Binh Son Refining and Petrochemical’s Dung Quat refinery in central Vietnam. Gazprom Neft and PetroVietnam (Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group) also signed a MOU on exploration and exploitation of oil and gas on Vietnam’s continental shelf.  Agreement was reached to proceed with the construction of the Ninh Thuan 1 Nuclear Power Plant with Russian participation. Vietnam also committed itself to joining the Eurasian Economic Union comprising Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia by mid-year.[11]

President Sang is scheduled to visit Moscow on May 9, 2015 to participate in activities commemorating 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

United States: Comprehensive Partnership. In July 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Hanoi and reportedly proposed that bilateral relations be raised to a strategic partnership. The following year Vietnam-United States signed their first MOU on defence cooperation (Thayer 2013d); but negotiations on a strategic partnership became bogged down by human rights and other issues.

In 2013, Vietnam and the United States reached consensus to raise their bilateral relations to that of a Comprehensive Partnership. This agreement was announced in July during the state visit by President Truong Tan Sang to the United States (Thayer 2013a and 2013b). The Comprehensive Partnership Agreement included nine major points most of which reiterated existing areas of and mechanisms for cooperation. These included: the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement Council; the Joint Committee for Scientific and Technological Cooperation; the Defense Policy Dialogue; and the Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue. Nonetheless, the Comprehensive Partnership created a new political and diplomatic dialogue mechanism between the U.S. Secretary of State and Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

The Comprehensive Partnership Agreement made no mention of a Plan of Action that accompanied many of Vietnam’s strategic partnership agreements. Instead, the Joint Statement noted that the two governments would create new mechanisms for each of the nine areas of cooperation: political and diplomatic relations, trade and economic ties, science and technology, education and training, environment and health, war legacy issues, defence and security, protection and promotion of human rights, and culture, sports, and tourism.

In other words, the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement will advance bilateral cooperation on trade and economic issues, including the conclusion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, and institutionalize a regular dialogue at ministerial level between the two countries.

Maritime security issues featured prominently in Vietnam-U.S. relations, particularly as a result of tensions arising from China’s deployment of the HD-981 oil platform in Vietnam’s EEZ (Thayer 2014c).In short order, in October 2013, Vietnam and the United States reached agreement on cooperation between the two Coast Guards and cooperation on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes (Thayer 2013d).In December 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the U.S. would provide Vietnam with U.S. $18 million to assist Vietnam enhance the capacity of its Coast Guard to conduct search and rescue, disaster and other maritime security missions.

In July 2014, Vietnam dispatched Politburo member Pham Quang Nghi to Washington for discussions with senior Obama Administration officials. He was followed in October by Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh who conferred with Secretary of State John Kerry. During Minh’s visit Kerry announced that the United States had lifted the restriction on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam on a case-by-case basis to assist in maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities (Thayer 2014e). In March 2015, Minister for Public Security and Politburo member, Tran Dai Quang met with a range of senior officials in the Obama Administration. Both sides are now preparing for the forthcoming visit by Nguyen Phu Trong, in mid-year, the first visit by the Secretary General of the VCP.

East Asian States

Republic of Korea:Strategic Cooperative Partnership. In 1997, Presidents Nguyen Minh Triet and Lee Myung-bak met in Hanoi and agreed to raise their Comprehensive Partnership in the 21st Century to a Strategic Cooperative Partnership. Under this agreement the two sides agreed to cooperate in politics and security, judicial and consular relations, economics, trade, investment, development cooperation, science and technology, environment and culture and education. The two countries regularly exchange high-level visits. Like its other strategic partners, Vietnam and South Korea exchange high-level defence visits,hold annual strategic and national defence strategic dialogues and conduct naval port visits. In 2013 Vietnam hosted a visit by South Korean President Park Geun-hye (September 2013).

Australia: Comprehensive Partnership. in 2008 Vietnam reportedly approached Australia and suggested they formally raise their bilateral relationship to ‘strategic partners.’The following year Australia’s Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rejected the term ‘strategic partners’ as inappropriate for two reasons. First, Rudd did not favour a term that he felt was merely symbolic; he wanted it to have practical connotations. Second, Rudd felt that the term ‘strategic’ should be reserved for close allies, such as the United States.[12] In the end Australia and Vietnam agreed to a comprehensive partnership. This was announced during the visit of VCP Secretary General Nong Duc Manh to Canberra in September 2009. He was accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Planning and Investment, and the Minister of Industry and Trade(Thayer 2015g).

On September 7, Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem signed a joint statement declaring their bilateral relations to be a Comprehensive Partnership.[13] This statement highlighted six major areas of cooperation: political ties and public policy exchanges; economic growth and trade development; development assistance and technical cooperation; defence and security ties; people-to-people links; and global and regional agenda.

In October 2010 Australia and Vietnam agreed to A Plan of Action to realize the Comprehensive Partnership for the years 2011-13. Although the Plan of Action has not been made public it reportedly touches on six major areas of cooperation:

(1) political relations (public policy and governance issues);

(2) economic cooperation (transparency, competitiveness, trade liberalization and assistance in the implementation of Vietnam’s obligations under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area and World Trade Organisation);

(3) development assistance and technical cooperation (natural resources management, human resource development, clean and renewable energy, collaboration in science and technology, and radiation and nuclear safety);

(4) defence and security cooperation (developing a credible regional security architecture; transnational crime human trafficking and people smuggling, narcotics, money laundering; counter-terrorism; maritime and aviation security; counter proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons and a bilateral treaty on extradition and mutual legal assistance);

(5) people-to-people linkages (short-term youth work and holiday arrangement; consular services; and culture, sports, tourism and people-to-people diplomacy); and

(6) coordination on global and regional issues (global economic crisis, reform of global financial institutions, climate change,WMD proliferation, natural disasters, pandemics, food security, and reform of the United Nations and the UN Security Council).

There was a hiatus in Vietnam-Australia relations during 2013 and 2014. In 2013 the Labor Government changed prime ministers three times; and in September the Liberal-National Coalition won government. In February 2014, the new Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, visited Hanoi to meet with her counterpart Pham Binh Minh. The two ministers announced that the joint Plan of Action for 2010-13 had been implemented and that they would ‘quickly finalize the Plan of Action for 2015-16. Later that year Australia hosted the G20 Summit and despite diplomatic efforts to arrange a formal meeting between Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Nguyen Tan Dung, the visit was rescheduled for the following year.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made an official visit to Australia from March 16-18, 2015 (Thayer 2015fand 2015g).According to the official joint communiqué, Prime Ministers Abbott and Dung witnessed the signing of the Declaration on Enhancing the Australia-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership and agreed to establish a Strategic Partnership in the future.[14]

The Declaration on Enhancing the Comprehensive Partnership was divided into five sections after the preamble. Australia and Vietnam pledged to step up cooperation in five areas: (1) bilateral political and diplomatic relations; (2) regional and international Cooperation; (3) economic growth, trade and industry development; (4) development assistance  and (5) defense, law enforcement and security ties.

European Countries

Between 2009 and 2013 Vietnam concluded strategic partnership agreements with five European countries.

Spain. The first agreement –entitled Forward Looking Strategic Partnership – was reached with Spain during the course of a state visit by President Nguyen Minh Triet in December 2009.[15] In September the following year Spain and Vietnam signed a MOU on defence cooperation between national defence industries and military education and training. Subsequently, it would appear that the Vietnam-Spain strategic partnership has languished due to Spain’s economic woes.

United Kingdom. Vietnam’s second strategic partnership with a European state was reached with the United Kingdom (UK) in September 2010.[16]The agreement was signed in London by Foreign Secretary William Hague and Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.

This agreement included seven priority areas: political-diplomatic, regional and global issues, trade and investment, sustainable socio-economic development, education, training, science and technology, security and defence, and people-to-people exchange. Ministries from both countries were tasked with coordinating specific Action Plans for each priority area.

Vietnam and the United Kingdom held their first Strategic Dialogue in London on October 26, 2010. The following year Vietnam and the UK signed a MOU on defence cooperation covering three areas: political-defence cooperation, research, and military equipment supply. On March 28, 2012, Vietnam and the United Kingdom signed the 2012 Action Plan to further their Strategic Partnership. The Action Plan included a provision for stepping up defence cooperation in training, defence trade and peace support operations.

Germany. Vietnam’s third strategic partnership with a European country was reached with Germany in October 2011 during the state visit to Vietnam by Chancellor Angela Merkel.[17]The two sides agreed to increase the exchange of high-ranking delegations including government and parliamentary agencies, political parties and scientific and strategic research institutes.  Germany and Vietnam hold regular political consultations.

Italy. Vietnam’s fourth strategic partnership with a European country was reached with Italy during the course of a visit buy VCP Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong in January 2013.[18]The strategic partnership agreement contained six areas of cooperation: political-diplomatic; global and regional issues; economic relations; development assistance; cultural, education and training, scientific and technological cooperation; and defence and security.

France. Vietnam’s fifth strategic partnership with a European country was reached with France during the official visit of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Paris in September 2013.[19] This agreement provided for cooperation in the following areas: diplomacy; national defence and security; economic relations, trade and investment; development assistance; and culture, education and training, scientific research, and law and justice.

ASEAN Members.

During 2013 Vietnam negotiated strategic partnership agreements with three ASEAN members: Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia. Vietnam is currently negotiation a strategic partnership agreement with the Philippines.

Thailand. In June 2013, Vietnam and Thailand agreed to elevate bilateral relations to a strategic partnership following a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinwatra and VCP Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong.[20]This marked Vietnam’s first strategic partnership with an ASEAN member.

The agreement included the following five areas:political cooperation (high-level visits and strategic political dialogues); defence and security cooperation (traditional and non-traditional security challenges and consular affairs); economic cooperation (trade, investment, agriculture, energy, telecommunications, information technology and transport); social, cultural, people-to-people cooperation; and regional and international cooperation (particularly ASEAN centrality, ASEAN Community, and the Mekong Forum). Vietnam and Thailand agreed on a Plan of Action to implement the strategic partnership; the first meeting of their Joint Commission was held in November 2013.

Indonesia. Immediately after Secretary General Trong’s visit to Thailand, President Truong Tan Sang made a state visit to Indonesia for discussions with President SusiloBambangYudhoyono. The two leaders agreed to raise bilateral relations to a strategic partnership[21] and to exchange high-level visits and cooperate in the following areas: defence and security; trade and investment; sustainable food and energy; fisheries and aquaculture; people-to-people links; ASEAN Community-building and the peaceful resolution of South China Sea disputes.

In late 2014 two Vietnam People’s Army Navy frigates paid their first goodwill port visit to Indonesia (Thayer 2014i). The following year the advent of President Joko Widodo to office resulted in a momentary strain in relations when the new president ordered the burning of Vietnamese fishing boats caught poaching in Indonesian waters. This action violated the spirit of the strategic partnership agreement that called for cooperation not unilateral action in dealing with illegal fishing (Thayer 2014l).

Singapore. The Vietnam-Singapore strategic partnership agreement was signed in Hanoi in September 2013 during the course of an official visit by Prime Minister Lee Hisen Loong.[22] The agreement covers five major areas: deepening mutual trust in political relations; boosting economic cooperation; increasing cooperation in security-defence; promoting bilateral ties in education, law, health, culture, art and sports; and intensifying cooperation at regional and international forums.

The Philippines. In May 2014, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung made an official visit to Manila for discussions with President Benigno Aquino.The two leaders agreed to set up a Joint Working Committee charged with drawing up a road map for an agreement on a strategic partnership. Their respective foreign ministers were assigned to co-chair this committee(See: Thayer 2014d, 2014i, 2015b and 2015d).

In November 2014, when Presidents Aquino and Sang met on the sidelines of the 22nd APEC Leaders’ Summit in Beijing they agreed to convene the first meeting of the Joint Commission on Concluding a Strategic Partnership. The inaugural meeting of the Joint Commission was held on January 30 the following year between the Secretary of Foreign Affairs Albert del Rosario and his Vietnamese counterpart Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in Manila. According to the Joint Statement issued after the talks, the two ministers agreed ‘on the basis of amity, equality, mutual respect and cooperation… to elevate the level and intensity of bilateral exchanges between the two countries.’Discussions are currently underway and are expected to be completed before the end of 2015 (Thayer 2015c). President Aquino is scheduled to visit Vietnam in the third week of April this year.[23]

South China Sea

A major maritime confrontation erupted between China and Vietnam from May 2 to July 16, 2014 when China deployed a mega oil exploration platform, Hai Yang Shi You 981 (HD 981), in Vietnam’s EEZ. Bilateral relations plunged to their lowest level since the 1979 border war.Throughout May all Vietnamese attempts to make contact with their counterparts in China, either through hot lines or direct contact by the agencies concerned, were rebuffed.

The VCP Central Committee convened its ninth plenum from May 8-14, 2014 and resolved to closely monitor the maritime standoff and also called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute. On June 18, 2014 China’s dispatched State Councilor Yang Jiechi to Hanoi for testy consultations with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at a ‘leaders meeting’ of the Joint Steering Committee on Bilateral Cooperation.

In early July 2014, the VCP Politburo reportedly voted overwhelmingly to hold a meeting of the Central Committee in August to endorse international legal action against China; but before it could do so China brought an abrupt end to the crisis by withdrawing the HD 981. Nonetheless, on July 28 sixty-one leading Vietnamese personalities signed an open letter criticizing the government for it’s handling of relations with Beijing and called for legal action and a lessening of Vietnam’s dependence on China.

In August 2014,Xi Jinping and other high-level Chinese leaders received Le Hong Anh, a special envoy of the VCP Secretary General and member of the Politburo. Anh presented an invitation for Secretary General/President Xi to visit Vietnam. The following month a high-powered Vietnamese military delegation led by Minister of National Defence and member of the Politburo General Phung Quang Thanh visited Beijing (Thayer 2014g and 2015a). Shortly after these visits Councilor Yang returned to Vietnam to co-chair the seventh Joint Steering Committee on Bilateral Cooperation where both sides agreed to reset their relations (Thayer 2014h). In December 2014, Vietnam filed a statement of interest with the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague requesting that Vietnam’s interests be taken into account during deliberations by the Arbitral Tribunal on the case brought by the Philippines against China (Thayer 2014k).

On April 7, 2015,Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong journeyed to Beijing to meet with General Secretary Xi Jinping and other high-level Chinese leaders. After the Xi-Trong meeting a joint communiqué stated that the leaders ‘reached broad common perceptions on intensifying ties between the two Parties and countries in the new context.’ The joint communiqué further stated:

They [China and Vietnam] need to consistently respect each other, hold sincere consultations and manage differences; As political trust is a foundation for the healthy and stable development of bilateral ties, both sides need to increase visits and exchanges, from the strategic heights, carrying the bilateral ties forward; win-win cooperation between Vietnam and China brings practical benefits to people in both countries and contributing to peace, development and prosperity in the region, which should be enhanced and deepened across sectors[24]

On the vexed issue of the South China Sea dispute, the two leaders reset the clock back back to October 2013 and understandings reached during the visit of Premier Le Keqiang to Hanoi (Thayer 2014a).Xi and Trong agreed to comply with and seriously implement the ‘Agreement on Basic Principles Guiding the Settlement of Vietnam-China sea-related issues’ through the already established government-level negotiation mechanism on Vietnam-China boundary and territorial issues. The leaders further agreed to ‘manage disputes at sea’ and ‘fully and effectively’ implement the 2002 Declaration on Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and to reach agreement on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.


This paper has analysed Vietnamese foreign policy over the last four decades from reunification to the present. This analysis divided Vietnam’s foreign policy into three periods: 1975-91 (Vietnam went from being a member of the socialist camp to a member of the international community); 1991-2006 (Vietnam sought to multilateralize and diversity it foreign relations by developing economic links and political relations with major powers in Asia, America, Europe and Southeast Asia, as well as join regional multilateral institutions); and 2006-2015 (Vietnam consolidated its international role by forging strategic partnerships with major world powers and major Asian powers and pursued a policy of proactive international integration.

This paper traced in broadbrush strokes the remarkable transformation in Vietnam’s worldview from a Marxist-Leninist framework of a globe divided into two hostile camps into a view of one global economy that offers opportunities and challenges to every state, including Vietnam. Vietnam rejected the zero-sum view of the world divided into ‘friends and enemies’ and sought to become friends with all countries.

In jettisoning the view that the world is divided into hostile socialist and capitalist camps, Vietnam set the stage for developing cooperative relations with non-socialist states on both a regional and global basis. This is turn led to the adoption of the term ‘national interest’ as a guide to national security policy. Vietnam has developed a comprehensive view of national security that depreciates the relative importance of military power and elevates the salience of economic and other factors.

There are still residues of ‘old political thinking’ especially in relation to the big powers. Some VCP members still view developing relations with the United States with considerable suspicion. They fear that U.S. advocacy of democracy, human rights and religious freedom is part of a longer-term strategy of overthrowing one-party rule.[25] Party conservatives still speak of ‘hostile external forces and the threat of peaceful evolution.’ A residue of ‘old political thinking’ may be found in Vietnam’s views towards China. Party conservatives still value socialism as a thread uniting Vietnam and China. Others in the party are concerned about China’s real politik behaviour in asserting sovereignty over the South China Sea (Thayer 2008d). Some retired officials have even called for Vietnam “’to exit China’s orbit’ (thoat Trung).

What factors account for this change? Which are more important, domestic or external factors? How and why this process occurred deserves further detailed study. Fortunately there is a growing body of literature on Vietnam’s external relations written by Vietnamese scholars at home and abroad (Hoang Anh Tuan 1993, 1994, 1996 and Nguyen Vu Tung 1993, 2002, 2007). One western-trained scholar based in Hanoi has adopted the constructivist view that through interaction with ASEAN states Vietnam has developed a new identity (Nguyen Vu Tung 2002). A German-trained Vietnamese scholar, now resident in the United States, attributes foreign policy change to the contestation between senior leaders who favour global integration and those who oppose U.S. imperialism. This has led to the alternation of ‘four pathways’ in Vietnam’s relations with China (Vuving 2006).

This paper has stressed the importance of external shocks, such as domestic economic crisis and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the role of individual leaders, such as Mikhail Gorbachev and Vo Van Kiet, as facilitators of change. But little is known about how new ideas were acquired and transmitted through Vietnam’s political system. The author’s field work in Vietnam in the 1980s and 1990s points to the importance of a network of Vietnamese advisers, Soviet-trained scholars and researchers working for the party, state and official institutes as keys to this process (Thayer 1986, 1989b and 1990c). Finally, this paper has argued that changes in Vietnam’s in national security policy cannot be divorced from domestic factors and internal party politics. Vietnam’s changing worldview and national security policies have led to a strengthening of national sovereignty through regional (Thayer 2007b) and global integration.

Vietnam’s adoption of the view that there is a single world community and a unified global economy led it to develop a more positive outlook on global integration. Integration was no longer viewed as a process of assimilation (hoanhap) but one of interdependence. Vietnam joined ASEAN and contributed to its development as ASEAN Chair for 2010 as well as host of the inaugural ADMM Plus.

The analysis is this paper demonstrates that Vietnam has been able to make successful major strategic adjustments in its foreign policy to safeguard its sovereignty and national independence. Throughout the post-Vietnam War period Vietnamese foreign policy has contributed both to national development and international integration by opening Vietnam to trade and foreign investment and by participation in an everexpanding number of multilateral institutions from ASEAN to the United Nations Security Council.


[1]National security is defined broadly to include foreign and defence policy. Signs of this transformation may be found as early as 1982 at the time of the 5th national party congress; see: Thayer 1992s and Tran Do, ‘Dai Hoi Nam’, Hoi Ky, vol. 2, chapter 2. Consult

[2] Key VCP Politburo resolutions relating to Vietnam’s external policies in this period, such as Politburo Resolutions No. 32 (1986), No. 2 (1987), and No. 13 (1988),  were not included in Dang Cong San Vietnam, Van Kien Dang Toan Tap and have not yet been made public.

[3] The call for normalizing relations with China was remarkable given that two months earlier, on March 13, 1988, Chinese naval forces attacked Vietnamese ships in waters around Fiery Cross and Johnson South Reefs and occupied these and other features at this time (Hayton: 2014:81-84).

[4]Nhan Dan, January 21, 1994

[5] Voice of Vietnam, January 22, 1994

[6]A Politburo resolution adopted in November 2001 sketched Vietnam’s diplomatic strategy as follows: continue to strengthen relations with Vietnam’s neighbours and countries that have been traditional friends; give importance to relations with big countries, developing countries, and the political and economic centers of the world; raise the level of solidarity with developing countries and the non-aligned movement; increase activities in international organizations; and develop relations with Communist and Workers’ parties, with progressive forces, while at the same time expanding relations with ruling parties and other parties. Pay attention to people’s diplomacy’ (Vu Duong Ninh, 2002:110).

[7]This was the first time the concept of ‘market economy with socialist characteristics’ was endorsed (Le Xuan Tung, 2004:17).

[8]Vietnam Economy, November 14, 2006.

[9] See: Carlyle A. Thayer, Le Premier ministre chinois Li Keqiang au Vietnam,’Étudequadrimestrielle n°1, cycle 2013-2014, Asia Centre, ObservatoireAsie du Sud-est (Paris), Mars 2014, 13-15.

[10] Tran Van Minh, ‘Medvedev: Vietnam Close to Deal with Russian-Led Trade Area,’ Associated Press, April 6, 2015; Truong Son, ‘Vietnam, Russia set to enhance cooperation in all fields,’ Thanh Nien Daily, April 7, 2015; ‘Vietnam, Russia agree to deepen all-around ties, especially in trade, energy,’ Tuoi Tre News, April 7, 2015; ‘Medvedev Says Time for Russia, Vietnam to Use National Currencies in Trade,’ Sputnik, April 7, 2015; Paddy Harris, ‘Gazprom Neft and Petrovietnam ink upstream and downstream collaboration,’ Oil & Gas Technology, April 7, 2015; Andrew Tully, ‘Russia Reaches Oil and Gas Agreement With Vietnam,’ Oil Price, April 7, 2015; YurySlyusar, ‘Vietnam Is a Launch Pad to Enter the Aviation Market in South-East Asia,’ BAviation, April 7, 2015; Prensa Latina, “Russian Prime Minister concludes visit to Vietnam,’ April 7, 2015; and Vietnam News Agency, ‘Russian PM advocates advancing bilateral ties,’ VietnamNet, April 8, 2015.

[11]On the Eurasian Economic Union see:

[12] “Uc-Viet thuc day quan he doitac,” BBC Vietnamese, September 7, 2009.

[13]“Australia-Viet Nam Comprehensive partnership,” September 7, 2009.

[17] Vietnam News Agency, October 12, 2011.

[21]Joint Statement between the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the Republic of Indonesia, Jakarta, June 27, 2013.

[22]Joint Statement on the Establishment of a Strategic Partnership between the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the Republic of Singapore, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 11, 2013.

[23] See: ‘Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei’s Regular Press Conference on April 14, 2015,’

[24]Vietnam News Agency, “Viet Nam, China issue joint communiqué,” Beijing, April 8, 2015, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hanoi,

[25]These themes are especially prominent in textbooks used in the national defence education curriculum which is compulsory for all high school and university students.


Chu Van Chuc, 2004. ‘Qua trinhdoimoituduydoingoaivahinhthanhduongloidoingoaidoimoi’, NghienCuu Quoc Te, 3:58, 9, 3-11.

Communist Party of Viet Nam, 1977.Fourth National Congress Documents. Hanoi:  Foreign Languages Publishing House.

_____, 1991.7th National Congress Documents. Hanoi: Vietnam Foreign Languages Publishing House.

_____, 1996.7th National Congress of Representatives. Draft Statutes (Amended and Revised). Hanoi.

Dang Cong San Vietnam, 1986-91.Van Kien Dang Toan Tap, Hanoi: Nha Xuat Ban Quoc Gia, Vols. 47-49.

_____, 1996. ‘Du Thao Bao Cao Chinh Tri cua Ban Chap Nanh Trung Uong Dang Khoa VII Trinh Dai Hoi Lan Thu VIII cua Dang,’ 1996. Nhan Dan (April 10). supplement.

Hayton, Bill 2014. The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Le Xuan Tung, 2004. ‘Nhung Dot Pha Tu Duy Ly Luan veKinhTe Thi Truong o Nuoc Ta’, Tap Chi Cong San, 16(715), August, 14-21.

Luu Doan Huynh, 2004. ‘Vietnam-ASEAN Relations in Retrospect: A Few Thoughts’, Dialogue + Cooperation, 1, 23-31.

Nguyen DyNien, 2005. ‘Chinh Sach Van Hoat Dong DoiNgoai Trong ThoiKyDoiMoi’, Tap Chi Cong San, 17(740), September 2005, 31-37.

Nguyen Hoang Giap, Nguyen Thi Que and Nguyen Van Duong, Quan he Viet Nam-Han Quoc Tu Nam 1992 Den Nay va Trien Vong Phat Trien Den Nam 2020. Hanoi: Nha Xuat Ban Chinh Tri Quoc Gia, 2011.

Nguyen Huu Cat, 1996. ‘Viet Nam Hoi NhapvaoKhuVucvi Hoa Binh va Phat Trien’, NghienCuu Dong Nam A, February, 28-29.

Nguyen Manh Cam, 1995. ‘Gia tri lau ben vadinh huong nhatquan’, in Bo Ngoai Giao, Hoi nhapquoctevagiuvung ban sac. Hanoi: Nha xuat ban chinh tri quocte, 223–230.

Palmujoki, Eero, 1997. Vietnam and the World: Marxist-Leninist Doctrine and the Changes in International Relations, 1975-93. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Phan Doan Nam, 2006. ‘Ngoai Giao Viet Nam Sau 20 Nam DoiMoi’, Tap Chi Cong San, no. 14(760), July, 26-30.

Porter, Gareth 1990. ‘The Transformation of Vietnam’s Worldview: From Two Camps to Interdependence’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12:1, June, 1-19.

Storey, Ian James and Carlyle A. Thayer, 2001a.‘Cam Ranh Bay: Past Imperfect, Future Conditional’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, 23:3, December, 452-473.

_____, 2001b. ‘Scramble for Cam Ranh Bay as Russia prepares to withdraw’, Jane’s Intelligence Review, December, 34-37.

Thakur, Ramesh and Carlyle A. Thayer, eds., 1987.The Soviet Union as an Asian Pacific Power: Implications of Gorbachev’s 1986 Vladivostok Initiative. Special Studies in International Security. Boulder and London: Westview Press.

_____, 1992.Soviet Relations with India and Vietnam. London: The Macmillan Press.

_____, 1993.Soviet Relations with India and Vietnam, 1945-1992. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Thayer, Carlyle A. 1977, “Vietnam in World Affairs,” Dyason House Papers(June 1977), 3(5), 5-8.

_____, 1978, ‘Vietnam’s External Policy: An Overview’,Pacific Community[Tokyo], 9(2), January, 212-231.

_____, 1981.Vietnam’s Foreign Policy’, World Review[Brisbane: Australian Institute of International Affairs], 20:2, June, 30-40.

_____, 1986. ‘Vietnam’s Foreign Policy: The Background Factors’, Current Affairs Bulletin [The University of Sydney], February, 62:9, 21-30.

_____, 1987.‘Vietnam’s Sixth Party Congress: An Overview’, Contemporary Southeast Asia, June, 9:1, 12-22.

_____, 1988. ‘ASEAN and Indochina: The Trend Towards Dialogue?’ in Ralph H. C. Hayburn, ed., New Zealand and the ASEAN Countries. Dunedin: The University of Otago. 46-68.

_____, 1989. ‘Prospects for Peace in Kampuchea: Soviet Initiatives and Indochinese Responses,’The Indonesian Quarterly, 2nd Quarter, 17(2), 157-172.

_____, 1990a. ‘ASEAN and Indochina: The Dialogue’, in Alison Broinowski, ed., ASEAN Into the 1990s. London: Macmillan. 138-161.

_____, 1990b. ‘Indochina’, in Desmond Ball and Cathy Downes, eds., Security and Defence: Pacific and Global Perspectives. Sydney, Wellington, Boston, and London: Allen and Unwin. 398-411.

_____, 1991. ‘Civil Society and the Soviet-Vietnamese Alliance’, in ChandranKukathas, David Lovell and William Maley, eds., The Transition from Socialism:  State and Civil Society in Gorbachev’s USSR. Sydney: Longmann Cheshire. 198-218.

_____, 1992a. ‘Comrade Plus Brother: The New Sino-Vietnamese Relations’, The Pacific Review , 5:4, September, 402-406.

_____, 1992b. ‘The Soviet Union and Indochina’, in Roger E. Kanet, Deborah Nutter Miner, and Tamara J. Resler, eds., Soviet Foreign Policy in Transition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 236-255.

_____, 1992c.Vietnam. Asia-Australia Briefing Papers, Sydney: The Asia-Australia Institute, The University of New South Wales.

_____, 1993. ‘Indochina’, in Ramesh Thakur and Carlyle A. Thayer, eds., Reshaping Regional Relations: Asia-Pacific and the Former Soviet Union.Boulder, San Francisco and Oxford: Westview Press. 201–222.

_____, 1995a.Beyond Indochina, Adelphi Paper 297 London: Oxford University Press for the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

_____, 1996. ‘Internal Southeast Asian Dynamics: Vietnam’s Membership in ASEAN’, in HadiSoesastro and Anthony Bergin, eds., The Role of Security and Economic Cooperation Structures in the Asia Pacific Region: Indonesian and Australian Views. Jakarta: Centre for Strategic and International Studies. 78-88.

_____, 1997.‘Force Modernization: The Case of the Vietnam People’s Army’, in Contemporary South East Asia. 19:1, June. 1-28.

_____, 1999.‘Vietnamese Foreign Policy: Multilateralism and the Threat of Peaceful Evolution’, in Carlyle A. Thayer and Ramses Amer, eds., Vietnamese Foreign Policy in Transition. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. 1-24.

_____, 2002a. ‘Vietnam in 2001: The Ninth Party Congress and After’, Asian Survey, 42:1, January/February, 81-89.

_____. 2005. “The Prospects for Strategic Dialogue,” in Catharin E. Dalpino editor, Dialogue on U.S.-Vietnam Relations: Ten Years After Normalization. San Francisco: The Asia Foundation, 2005. 26-30.

_____, 2007.‘Vietnam: The Tenth Party Congress and After’, in Daljit Singh and Lorraine C. Salazar, eds., Southeast Asian Affairs 2007.381-397.

_____, 2011. “Russia-Vietnam Relations,” Global Insider, WorldPolitics Review, June 8, 2011.

_____, 2012a. “Vietnam On the Road to Global Integration: Forging Strategic Partnerships Through International Security Cooperation,” in Vietnam on the Road to Integration and Sustainable Development, The Fourth International Conference on Vietnamese Studies. Hanoi: Vietnam Academy of Social Sciences and Vietnam National University, 2012. 206-214.

_____, 2012b.“Russian Subs in Vietnam,” U.S. Naval Institute, August 21, 2012.

_____, 2012c.“The Russia-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership,” East Asia Forum, October 9, 2012.

_____, 2013a. “The U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership: What’s in a Name?,” cogitASIA, Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 30, 2013.

_____, 2013b. “The U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership: What’s in a Name?,” The Strategist, Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog, July 31, 2013.

_____, 2013c.“With Russia’s Help, Vietnam Adopts A2/AD Strategy,” The Diplomat, October 8, 2013.

_____, 2013e.“The Bear is Back: Russia Returns to Vietnam,” The Diplomat, November 26, 2013.

_____, 2013f.“How India-Vietnam Strategic Ties Are Mutually Beneficial,” The Diplomat, December 3, 2013.

_____, 2014a.Le Premier ministre chinois Li Keqiang au Vietnam,”Étudequadrimestrielle n°1, cycle 2013-2014, Asia Centre, ObservatoireAsie du Sud-est (Paris), Mars 2014, 13-15.

_____, 2014b. “India-Vietnam: Consolidating Bilateral Ties,” Diplomatist (New Delhi) 2(1), January 2014, 51-52.

_____, 2014d.“Is a Philippine-Vietnam Alliance in the Making?,” The Diplomat, March 28, 2014.

_____, 2014e.“The US Lifts Arms Embargo: The Ball Is in Vietnam’s Court,” The Diplomat, October 6, 2014.

_____, 2014f.“Vietnam’s Extensive Strategic Partnership with Japan,” The Diplomat, October 14, 2014.

_____, 2014g. “China-Vietnam Defense Hotline Agreed: What Next?,” TheDiplomat, October 20, 2014.

_____, 2014h. “How Vietnam Woos China and India Simultaneously,” The Diplomat, October 28, 2014.

_____, 2014i. “Vietnam’s Navy Crosses the Line,” The Diplomat, December 2, 2014. .

_____, 2014j. “India and Vietnam Advance Their Strategic Partnership,” The Diplomat, December 11, 2014.

_____, 2014k.“Vietnam Files Statement of Interest with the Permanent Court of Arbitration,” cogitASIA, December 15, 2014.

_____, 2014l. “Indonesia: Playing With Fire in the South China Sea,” The Diplomat, December 18, 2014.

_____, 2015a.“China and Vietnam Eschew Megaphone Diplomacy,” The Diplomat, January 2, 2015.

_____, 2015b. “The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam Race to South China Sea Defense Modernization,” The Diplomat, January 23, 2015.

_____, 2015c.“Philippines, Vietnam Expand Ties to Counter China Threat,” World Politics Review, February 13, 2015.

_____, 2015d. “The Philippines and Vietnam Forge a Strategic Partnership,” The Diplomat, March 10, 2015.

_____, 2015e.“Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay Caught in US-Russia Crossfire,” The Diplomat, March 13, 2015.

_____, 2015f.“Australia and Vietnam Enhance Their Comprehensive Partnership,” The Diplomat, March 16, 2015.

_____, 2015g.“Australia-Vietnam Relations: Advancing the Comprehensive Partnership,” Keynote Address II to theInternational Conference on Australia-Asia Relations under Prime Minister Tony Abbott,” Paper presented to sponsored by the Department of Diplomacy, National Cheng Chi University, International Conference Auditorium, General Building of Colleges Taipei, Taiwan, March 31-April 1, 2015.

Tran Do, “Dai Hoi Nam,” Hoi Ky, vol. 2, chapter 2.

Vo Van Kiet, 1995. “Thu cua Ong Vo Van KietGui Bo Chinh Tri Dang Cong San Viet Nam.”

Vu Dinh Hoe and Nguyen Hoang Giap,  2008. Hop tacchienluoc Viet-Nga: Nhungquan diem, thuctrangvatrienvong. Hanoi: Nha XuatBan Chinh Tri Quoc Gia.

Vu Duong Ninh, 2002. editor in chief, Ngoai Giao Viet Nam Hien Dai 1975-2002. Hanoi: Hoc VienQuan He Quoc Te.

Vu Khoan, 1995. ‘Mot so van de quoctecuadai hoi VII quan’, in Bo Ngoai Giao, Hoi nhapquoctevagiuvung ban sac. Hanoi: Nha xuat ban chinh tri quocte. 71–76.

_____, 2006.‘Tich Cuc va Chu Dong Hoi NhapKinhTe Quoc Te’, Tap Chi Cong San, 119, internet edition.

(Reprinted with permission of the author. Carlyle A. Thayer is Emeritus Professor, The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra. Email:

7 views0 comments


bottom of page