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Remarks by PM Pham Minh Chinh at CSIS in Washington D.C

Prime Ministe Pham Minh Chinh has delivered a speech at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington D.C during his ongoing working trip to US.

The following is the full text of the speech.


Dear Dr. John Hamre, President and CEO of the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
Ladies and gentlemen,

          I am very happy to visit the Center for Strategic and International Studies for the first time today, though this is far from the first time I hear of the CSIS, a top American think tank in the field of foreign strategies and policies and international issues.

          Seventy-seven years ago, President Ho Chi Minh, the national hero of Vietnam and great man of culture, prefaced the Declaration of Independence establishing the Democratic Republic of Vietnam with this untarnishable fact: “All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness”. This was the spirit enshrined within the 1776 Declaration of Independence of the United States of America; it demonstrates a common, universal value shared by our two countries and mankind as a whole.

          We are all elated to witness the extraordinary growth of the relationship between Vietnam and the US in the three decades after normalization. That relationship has flourished and blossomed, so to speak, thanks to both sides' efforts, nurtured by sincerity, trust and a sense of responsibility, by sympathy, sharing and mutual respect, pursuant to the interest and desire of the two countries, nations and peoples. Our two sides have overcome differences and reached common foundational principles for this relationship. This was established in the Vietnam – US Joint Vision Statement back in 2015, during the official visit to the US by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. The statement stressed, and I quote: “respect for... each other's political systems, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity” 

          That spirit was also reaffirmed in President Joe Biden's letter to General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in 2021, in which he stressed that the strong and lively relationship that the two countries had been building together is grounded in the mutual respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

          Vietnam highly appreciates the constant support by the US, over the past years, for a strong and independent Vietnam. Over the course of 27 years following normalization, four consecutive US Presidents have paid visits to Vietnam, each leaving very good impression in the heart of the two peoples. Since the beginning of President Biden's term, various high-level US officials have visited Vietnam, even during the height of the pandemic back in 2021. Among them are Vice President Kamala Harris, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. In November 2011, I met President Joe Biden at the COP26 in the UK.

          The foundation I touched upon have given me faith and joy during my first visit to the US as the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. I thank you, Dr. Hamre, President of the CSIS, for inviting me to our discussion today, taking place in an exceptionally special occasion. And I thank you for your keen interest.

          Our discussion is all the more meaningful, taking place on the eve of the ASEAN – US Special Summit. This is the first face-to-face meeting since 2016. It demonstrates the determination of ASEAN and US leaders in promoting cooperation for peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world.

          The international landscape is witnessing deep, rapid and unpredictable changes. All of us, Governments and scholars alike, must step up collaboration, engagement and sharing of ideas to build a better world together.

          In my remark today, desiring to stress the importance of sincerity, trust and responsibility for a better world, I would like to share with you my thoughts on three things:

          First, how Vietnam sees the world today,

          Second, the role of sincerity, trust and responsibility in a turbulent world.

          Third, what we need to do in order to demonstrate sincerity, and bolster trust and responsibility, for a better world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

          1. Into the third decade of the 21st century, peace, cooperation and development remain the ardent desires of the peoples of the world. Yet these aspirations are facing the most trying time since the Cold War ended. Globalization, international economic integration and the world economy itself stand before new opportunities for development, especially with the advancements the Fourth Industrial Revolution brought to the table. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic, along with geopolitical, geo-economic and technological shifts, are creating breakthroughs in the state of the world. There are altogether a lot of unpredictable factors having multidimensional impact on the security and  developmental environment for various countries, wherein opportunities and challenges are deeply interwoven.

          A mere few years ago few could have foreseen six million would perish due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Equally few could have predicted a conflict erupting in the middle of Europe. These events have caused immense consequences on the security, political , economic and societal landscape of the whole world.

          One can say while the world is on the whole at peace, there might be localized wars. While it is on the whole in detente, there might be localized tension. While it is on the whole stable, there might be localized conflicts.

          This is giving rise to the risk of war and instabilities, confronting the world economy with many hazards. Meanwhile, competition and confrontation are leading to decoupling in politics, security and economy.

          On top of this, traditional and non-traditional security challenges, such as climate change, natural disasters, resource depletion, energy, water, food, human and cybersecurity, are still developing in complex ways. This state of affairs greatly affects various nations and their efforts to realize the United Nations' 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

          We must, then, be fully aware of both opportunities and challenges facing peace, cooperation and development in a rapidly changing world. Of these two aspects, the challenging side seems to be more prominent. Our effort for cooperation is required if we are to effectively tackle it.

          From that global and regional landscape and the reality of Vietnam's diplomatic undertakings thus far, most recently its ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020 and Non-permanent membership of the UNSC for 2020-2021, I have the following key observations to share with you.

          First, peace, security and development are organically linked. Peace, security and development of a country will affect its own neighbors as well as the region and the world.

          Second, the interest of each nation-state must respect the legitimate interest of other states, grounded in international law and the UN Charter.

          Third, international integration and multilateral cooperation remain an inevitable course if we are to preserve peace, promote growth and advance friendship among nations. No country, no matter how rich or powerful, is able to address everything. Instead, there must be cooperation with other countries, the international community and its populace.

          Global issues require a global approach and international cooperation to settle, in which multilateralism is upheld. For instance, the fight against COVID-19, climate change response, and addressing resource depletion.

          Fourth, all states and nations desire a better world and peace and wellbeing for their people. Therefore, we must place special importance on the human factor, viewing human beings as the center, the subject, the purpose and the engine for the development of all collaboration and partnership in international integration. Whole-of-people issues must be addressed with a whole-of-people approach, to encourage the entire people's innovation and cooperation.

          Fifth, international integration is, objectively speaking, a matter of course. In this process, each country must rely on its internal strength as a fundamental, strategic, long-term and decisive factor. This must work in concert with its external resources, as an important, necessary, constant and game-changing element. Or, as we say it, we must know how to combine national power with the power of our time in a suitable and effective way.

Ladies and gentlemen,

          2. Sincerity, trust and a sense of responsibility play an essential role in addressing those issues facing the world today. The lack of sincerity, trust and responsibility is itself one of the causes for tension and conflicts in many places. Deficiency in sincerity and trust is a major hindrance to cooperation among countries, and to collaboration in responding to regional and global challenges.

          Therefore, more than ever, we need to promote the building and cementing of sincerity and trust among countries. At the same time, each country need to conduct themselves in a responsible way. Foremost of all, each must respect their own commitments, international law and the UN Charter, respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other, and respect the chosen political system that another country has chosen and that is supported by its people. They must contribute to the common work of the international community according to their own ability. And we must uphold dialogue to understand each other more, in order to address the differences and disputes among states.

          Equal and mutually beneficial cooperation on the basis of mutual respect is one of the best ways to settle existing issues among countries and build a better world. Faced with the unpredictable and complex turbulence across the globe, we must think, seriously and responsibly, so that for no reason shall this paramount avenue be disrupted. Only through sufficient sincerity, trust and responsibility may countries work together to address issues substantively and effectively.

          ASEAN itself stands testimony to the value of trust and responsibility, evident in its contributions to addressing regional and global issues. Located in between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, ASEAN has been making every effort to play a central role in the regional architecture that is taking shape. Its members are joining hands to build an ASEAN Community according to its 2025 Vision.

          Rooted in the common ground of sincerity, trust and responsibility, ASEAN is playing its role and making all efforts alongside its partners to build a world and regional landscape for peace, stability, cooperation and development, based on international law and the UN Charter. The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific stresses openness and inclusivity, based on cooperation and dialogue with all parties concerned. ASEAN has established and is bolstering its network of strategic partnerships with most of its key partners, including the US. ASEAN hopes to join these partners to build sincerity, promote trust, take responsible actions, and advance cooperation on the basis of respecting the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and polity of each other, and respecting international law. It seeks to bolster international cooperation and in this way address global challenges, including COVID-19, climate change, and the need for environment protection.

Ladies and gentlemen,

          3. As an active and responsible member in ASEAN and the international community, Vietnam always makes every effort to contribute to dialogue and cooperation, and stands ready to play an active and positive role as befit its power and standing.

          Those of you who look to Vietnam may ask me, how, then, does Vietnam demonstrate this sense of responsibility in the wake of regional and international issues?

          You would be aware that from the yoke of colonialism Vietnam claimed independence. From a divided country, we stand united today. From a poor country, we are now a medium-income country, and well on a path to realize the developmental goal of our aspiration. By 2025, Vietnam shall be a developing country with modern-oriented industry, having graduated from lower-middle income. By 2030, it shall be a developing country with modern industry and upper-middle income. By 2045, it shall be a developed, high-income country.

          It is important to note that Vietnam's aspiration for development is inseparable from the aspiration for peace, stability, cooperation and development of the entire region and the world. I hope that the US and other partners would be keen on cooperating with and assisting Vietnam in realizing that strategic vision. At the same time, this would open up great opportunities for more comprehensive and deeper cooperation between Vietnam and the US, and other countries alike.

          Let me now touch on and clarify Vietnam's views on demonstrating sincerity, strengthening trust and bolstering responsibility in its cooperation with other countries, the region and the international community:

          First, Vietnam perseveres with its foreign policy line of independence, peace, friendship, cooperation and development. It seeks to diversify and multilateralize relations. It is a responsible member of the international community. Vietnam has always been consistent and transparent in making and conducting this policy line.

          Second, between independence and dependence, our choice is always independence, in the spirit of “Nothing is more precious than independence and freedom” to quote the great President Ho Chi Minh. But between negotiation and confrontation, we choose negotiation; between dialogue and conflict, we choose dialogue; between peace and war, we choose peace. Between competition and cooperation, we choose cooperation. In case of competition, it must be healthy and equal, and conducted in respect of each other's lawful and legitimate rights and interests.

          In a world full of turbulence, strategic competition and a great many choices, Vietnam picks no side. Instead it chooses justice, fairness and goodness, based on the principles of international law and the UN Charter. It chooses equality, shared benefits for all, and win-win for all.

          Third, Vietnam is ready to engage in dialogue and cooperation to address differences and disputes, thus contributing to world peace, stability and development. At the same time, we seek to ensure a balance of interest and satisfactory handling of the concerns of different partners, countries, and the international community.

          It is for this reason that in the settlement of disputes and conflicts in the region and the world, including the East Sea – a critical sea to the countries within and beyond the region – we always seek to maintain peace and stability, ensure the security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight, preserve the legitimate rights and interest of parties, address disputes through peaceful means via dialogue based on respect for international law, especially the 1982  (UNCLOS 1982). We stand for the effective and full observance of the Declaration of Conduct of Parties  in the South China Sea (DOC), and are working towards the making of a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (COC) that is concrete, effectual, and in line with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

          In order to contribute responsibly to common international and regional matters, Vietnam takes the initiative to join and play a role in multilateral mechanisms, especially ASEAN, the United Nations, and other regional, inter-regional, and Mekong sub-regional mechanisms, according to the requirements and our own capability and particularities.

          Vietnam has been positive, proactive and responsible in its role as a Non-permanent member of the UNSC, for the terms of 2008-2009 and 2020-2021 both.. Vietnam directly takes part in the UN Peacekeeping forces, having sent its servicemen to these Missions since June 2014. Late April this year, Vietnam sent a combat engineer team of 184 officers to Abyei, Africa, and a second-level field hospital with 63 servicemen, ten of whom are women, to the mission in South Sudan.

          As a country having undergone, and thus understands the losses from, many wars, Vietnam stands ready to contribute to the reconciliation among countries. Vietnam was the venue for the second US – DPRK Summit. Regarding the Ukraine issue, it is Vietnam's consistent position to respect the UN Charter and principles of international law, respect the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, and to address all disputes through peaceful means without use or threat of force. Vietnam supports, and stands ready to take part in the efforts and initiatives of the international community in facilitating dialogue among the parties concerned in search of a long-term, enduring solution. Vietnam has provided 500,000 USD in humanitarian aid to Ukraine.

          During the COVID-19 pandemic, while itself facing great hardships, Vietnam still donated face-masks and medical equipment to 51 countries, and helped fund the COVAX Facility. We are very grateful and applaud the international community, including the US, for donating vaccine to Vietnam in the effort to combat the pandemic, especially its inauguration of the USCDC Regional Office for Southeast Asia in Hanoi.

Though still facing a great deal of socio-economic difficulties, Vietnam expressed its responsibility and very high determination in climate change response, and will fulfill its pledges under the Paris Agreement in order to achieve net-zero emission by 2050.

Vietnam has been vigorously advancing economic, trade and investment cooperation with most countries in the world. In this effort, Vietnam has negotiated and signed 15 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), opening up a vast market for free trade with more than 60 countries and partners, including all major economies in the world. This includes a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with the US. This process demonstrates Vietnam's responsibility in the conduct of fair and free trade.

Ladies and gentlemen,

          4. Vietnam always desires to strengthen its cooperation with the US on the basis of bolstering the trust and responsibility of both sides, in the interest of the two peoples and of peace, cooperation and development in the region and the world.

          To fulfill its national development targets, Vietnam cannot go alone. To go far, we need friends. It is not only today that Vietnam expresses its desire to work with the US. President Ho Chi Minh, our hero of national liberation and great man of culture, from the first days of the new Democratic Republic, expressed the desire for an equal and comprehensive partnership with the US in his letters to the US Government. Most remarkably, in his letter dated 16 February 1946 to President Harry Truman, President Ho Chi Minh wrote: “Our goal is complete independence and comprehensive partnership with the United States.”

Vietnam and the US have gone a long way in the process of expressing sincerity and building trust. First of all, the two sides earnestly joined hands in a concerted and determined effort to address war legacy issues. Vietnam has been active and very effective in its cooperation with the US in the search for US MIAs. Vietnam welcomes the US's efforts to address war legacy issues alongside Vietnam, through dioxin remediation, support for persons with disabilities and Agent Orange victims, removal of UXOs, and cooperation to search for the remains of Vietnamese war martyrs. Going forward, the two sides should continue to advance cooperation in addressing war legacy issues, in order to heal the losses and wounds that the war left behind, and move towards the future together.

Since the beginning of normalization in 1995, the relationship between the two countries has grown steadily across the board:

- Politically, the two sides have been each other's Comprehensive Partners since 2013 and have seen eye to eye on matters of principle in this relationship, most importantly being the respect for the polity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other, mutually beneficial cooperation, and respect for the UN Charter and international law.

- Economically, the US is Vietnam's second largest market, while Vietnam is the US's ninth largest market. The Vietnam – US Trade Agreement of 2000 was the launchpad that helped take the relationship between the two countries above and beyond. Bilateral trade in 2021, against all odds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reached almost 112 billion USD, increasing by almost 280 times compared to the 400 million USD back in 1995. Vietnam is also the US's largest market within ASEAN.

- In education and training, Vietnam has the largest number of visiting students in the US among the Southeast Asian countries. Some 24,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the US during the 2019-2020 period, contributing a billion dollars to the US economy in this field alone. The Fulbright University Vietnam has provided high-quality human capital in a timely manner to meet developmental needs in many sectors and professions. People-to-people exchanges, most remarkably, are also steadily growing.

- Defense and security cooperation continued to progress through concrete and meaningful results, in the spirit of the Joint Declaration and Vision Statement on Defense Cooperation in 2015.

The two countries are also working very well together on a wide range of international and regional issues: from nuclear weapon non-proliferation, counterterrorism, responding to climate change and sea level rise, to safeguarding food and water security, safety and security of navigation, nuclear security, and the maintenance of peace and stability and promotion of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific.

    5. Given the groundwork of the relationship built over the past three decades, we need to build on the sincerity, trust, respect and responsibility, not only in the shared efforts to address war legacy issues in order to heal the wounds of both nations, but also to further nurture this bond of collaboration between our two countries. There is much potential to realize to fulfill the aspiration and interest of both peoples, for peace, stability and cooperation in the region and the world. Both sides made a statement as such during the visit to the US by General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in 2015.

The US and many other countries are looking to the Indo-Pacific while Vietnam is stepping up its efforts for its aspirational developmental targets. As such, our two countries are standing on the threshold of new opportunities to take our Comprehensive Partnership along a stable, long-term, concrete and increasingly deeper trajectory. Key areas of cooperation going forward are economic, trade and investment cooperation, science and technology, the training of a highly qualified workforce, and the settlement of international and regional issues.

    Along with the traditional areas of cooperation, the two sides should look to future-oriented cooperation areas. I wish to especially stress three critical areas in which there is a great deal of cooperation potential between our two countries going forward – green growth, digital transformation, and supply chain diversification.

    Vietnam views green growth as a key mission to build a sustainable, in-depth development space for happiness, for today and more importantly for generations to come. To achieve its pledge of net-zero by 2050, we pay special attention to drawing on resources, science and technologies, and managerial expertise to invest into developing clean energy, modern infrastructure, and sustainable water management.

    We also see digital transformation as the major driver of the global economy going forward. Vietnam is therefore making all efforts to ride this new wave of digital transformation to forge ahead and narrow the developmental gap. This involves advancing comprehensive digital transformation through three pillars: Digital government, digital economy, and digital society.

    At the same time, Vietnam is making every effort to take an active part in the global production network and value chain, especially the diversification of supply chains, in order to satisfy the pressing global needs today. Vietnam has been, and will continue to be, a reliable destination for the business community, including US companies, in the effort to diversify and induce sustainability and stability in supply chains amidst a turbulent world.

    Green growth and digital transformation are two areas in which the US is among the top of the world. The US economy is also the largest in the world, with an expansive and diverse market. This is a solid found for the diversification of supply chains across the globe. The combination between US leadership in these important areas and an increasing vigor and deepening international integration of the Vietnamese economy will open up enormous opportunities for cooperation between the two countries and the two sides' business communities going forward.

Ladies and gentlemen,

          6. Sincerity, trust and responsibility are the key for all countries to address outstanding differences and disputes in a turbulent world today. That sincerity, trust and responsibility are also a major contribution to the strong growth of the relationship between Vietnam and the US over the last 30 years. I trust that these shall also be important contributors to guide, advance, and take the comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the US to greater, more substantive heights going forward.

          General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, in his visit to the CSIS in 2015, stressed that the two sides need to “set aside the past, overcome differences, build on similarities, and look towards the future”. During that same occasion, President Barack Obama stated that the relationship between the two countries is based on mutual respect and in the interest of both peoples. It is my hope that all of you – all of us – would stand together and contribute to the building of trust and responsibility between our two countries. Certainly this would be a concrete part in the interest of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the world.

          I wish you health, happiness and many successes.
          Thank you for your kind attention.