The following is the translated version of the interview.
Question 1 : Vietnam and the US have just marked 40 years since the end of the war and are to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their diplomatic relationship. What is your assessment about the Vietnam-US ties? What are the challenges to the relations between the two countries, and what can the US do to improve the relations?
Answer: I believe that the Vietnamese and American people and the entire progressive mankind aspire to peace and wish to live in peace. No one wants wars. Unfortunately, the history of Vietnam – US relations had a gloomy chapter, leaving behind heavy legacies in both nations. Time has shown us that above all is our burning desire for peace and a flourishing friendship and cooperation between us, and the two countries have managed to “put the past behind, rise over differences, maximize similarities and head to a brighter future”.
Forty-years after the war and 20 years after normalization, from former enemies, Vietnam and the US have now become friends and actively engaged in Comprehensive Partnership since 2013. This is really a long stride that few could imagine 20 years ago.
In 1995, the two sides cooperated with each other mainly in searching for Missing In Action (MIA) soldiers. Now, it has been expanded to all areas, politically, diplomatically, in economic and trade, culture and education, science and technology, security and defence, and people-to-people exchange. Among South East Asian countries, Vietnam has the largest number of students studying in the US. Trade value between our two countries in the last 20 years increases 130-folds.
Our two countries are now joining other countries in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which is of strategic importance to regional economic cooperation. In addition to our bilateral efforts, we have strengthened cooperation on regional and global issues such as non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, climate change response, food and water security, UN PKO with a view to contributing to peace, stability, cooperation and development in the Asia Pacific and beyond.
Our leaders have visited each other or met at the sideline of regional and international forums on a regular basis. This helps build mutual trust and create more opportunities to discuss ways and means to enhance bilateral relations. My visit to the US this time has no other purpose than that and it is expected that President Obama’s visit to Vietnam would be made later this year.
Like in any relations between two countries in the world, Vietnam and the US have differences on a number of issues such as perception on democracy, human rights and trade. To resolve differences, I believe the most effective way would be open and constructive dialogues to better understand each other so that differences won’t become hurdles to the overall bilateral relations.
Question 2 : Your official visit to the US is a historic visit. What are the specific objectives of the visit?
Answer: This is the first ever visit to the US by a General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam at the invitation of the US administration as the two sides are celebrating the 20 th anniversary of diplomatic relations. It is a good opportunity for us to review the past, exchange views on a vision of “future outlook” and work together for long-term friendship and cooperation based on mutual respect and respect for each other’s political regime. This will benefit our people and contribute to peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity in the region and the world.
I would like to reiterate to the US Government, Congress and people our consistent foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, diversification and multilateralization of external relations and active international integration. Vietnam would like to be a friend and reliable partner of all countries in the world. In this effort, we attach great importance to the relations with the US as one of the most important partners in our foreign policy.
This visit will provide a chance to further deepen the Comprehensive Partnership between our two countries in all areas. Apart from bilateral cooperation, I hope to exchange views with the US leaders on a long-term vision of regional and global issues of mutual concern such as the situation in the Asia Pacific, TPP, climate change, regional mechanisms for political, economic, security cooperation, maritime security and safety with a view to maintaining peace, stability, security, cooperation and development in the region and the world.
I hope that this is a chance for our two sides to have an open and frank discussion on issues where differences still exist. This would enhance mutual understanding, narrow the differences and gradually build up trust between us to add more substance and efficiency to long-term relations between our two countries.
Question 3: Will Vietnam persuade the US to fully lift the ban on lethal weapons sale?
Answer : Given the active and robust development in the Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries, Vietnam looks forward to strengthening the multi-faceted cooperation, including security and defense cooperation. The fact that US partially removed the Ban on Lethal Weapons Sale to Vietnam and works to fully remove the Ban in the future is a strong testimony of our mutual trust, creating the conditions for us to deepen the Comprehensive Partnership and implement the 2011 MoU on Vietnam – US Defense Cooperation and the 2015 Declaration on Shared Vision of Vietnam and the US on Defense Cooperation.
Question 4: What role do you think the US plays and what can the US do to maintain stability in the Asian-Pacific region in general and the East Sea in particular?
Answer: We believe that as one of the world's leading major powers and a member of the UNSC P5, the US has a great interest and responsibility in maintaining peace and stability in the world, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.
Vietnam welcomes the US policy to attach importance to the promotion of multi-sided cooperation with Asia-Pacific. I believe that on the basis of mutual understanding and respect, the US could further strengthen bilateral relations with each country in this region, especially in such areas as economic and trade, science and technology, education and training, climate change response, etc. Cooperation in these areas will bring about concrete benefits to the people, thereby creating a solid and long-lasting foundation for peace and stability in the region.
With regard to the East Sea issue, I really appreciate the US' statements to support a peaceful approach to settlement of disputes in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UNCLOS, the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and efforts to reach a Code of Conduct (COC).
We are all aware of the strategic location of the East Sea. About 50 percent of the world's shipping traffic passes through sea routes in this area. Therefore, maintaining peace, stability, maritime security and safety, freedom of navigation and aviation without changing the status quo, conducting militarization, imposing sea and air control in the East Sea is not only in the interest of any single country but the shared desire of all countries in the region and beyond. I hope that the US will continue to have appropriate voice and actions to contribute to peaceful settlement of disputes in the East Sea in accordance with international law in order to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific and the world.
Question 5 : China and the US are major economic partners of Vietnam. At the same time, both countries are working to increase their influence in the region. What does Vietnam do in this situation?
Answer: China and the US are both major powers in the Asia-Pacific and the global stage. Evidently, they will have important roles and significant influences in the region. Reality shows that major powers will be welcomed by the international community if they act in accordance with international law without affecting legitimate interests of other countries and if they make active and constructive contributions to the peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region.
Currently, the US and China are both leading economic partners of Vietnam. Therefore, promoting friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with both the US and China is one of the top priorities in our foreign policy. In addition, like other countries in the region, Vietnam hopes that the US-China relations would grow steadily and that is in the interest of peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
Question 6 : What do you expect from the National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam slated for next year? What should the Party do to address the issue of corruption which is undermining the public’s trust in the Party?
Answer: The 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam is of great importance to our country. The Congress will review the implementation of the 11 th Congress Resolution (2011-2015), look back on the path of 30-year reform and put forth major guidelines and policies in all areas in the next 5 years in order to further accelerate the comprehensive reform, defend the independence and territorial integrity of the Fatherland, firmly maintain the environment of peace and stability for national development, improve the people’s life, build rule-of-law and socialist state of the people, by the people and for the people, enhance the country’s position, proactively integrate into the world, strive to build Vietnam into a modern and industrial nation.
To strengthen the credibility and leadership of the Communist Party and the governance of the Vietnamese state, it is our policy to step up the struggle against corruption, considering this one of important tasks. During the last years, our anti-corruption efforts have produced positive outcomes and won the support of the people. However, we are not complacent. We will be determined to make greater efforts to complete this important task.
Question 7 : One of the obstacles to Vietnam-US is the issue of human rights. What is your opinion about criticism that there are no freedom of press and basic freedoms in Vietnam and the country’s human rights record is worsening in recent years?
Answer: In the very first lines of the Declaration of Independence that President Ho Chi Minh read 70 years ago, he quoted the American Declaration of Independence and the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Respecting and struggling for human rights are an aspiration of the Vietnamese people and the goal of the Communist Party. I believe that it is also the common aspiration of humanity and the common objective of all progressive regimes in the world.
In reality, after 30 years of Reform, the rights of the Vietnamese people are now better ensured by the State of Vietnam. This has been institutionalized in the Constitution and legal system of Vietnam and elaborated in different policies and measures for implementation from the central to local levels. Through such efforts, Vietnam has been able to make many achievements in ensuring human rights in all civil, political, economic, cultural and social areas.
This effort was recognized and appreciated by the international community, which is evidenced by Vietnam’s election to the UN Human Rights Council 2014-2016 by vast majority vote. Other countries also appreciate Vietnam's efforts to protect and promote human rights in our country as well as our active contributions to the international community. Nonetheless, much needs to be done to better ensure the rights of the Vietnamese people.
It is true that there remain different understanding between the US and Vietnam with respect to the issue of human rights. We should maintain dialogues in an open, candid and constructive manner to increase mutual understanding, narrow differences and make best use of our cooperation potentials. We should work to make sure such differences do not hinder bilateral relations.
A number of recent critics on the human rights in Vietnam are biased and groundless. I really hope that you will visit our country more frequently so that you can have a more objective and comprehensive view of Vietnam. You will see for yourself our efforts and accomplishments in ensuring and promoting human rights.
Question 8 : What major challenges is facing Vietnam’s economy at present and which policies will Vietnam pursue to promote its economic growth? What is the prospect for the Vietnamese economy in the time ahead? Is Vietnam ready for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement?
Answer : After 30 years of reform, Vietnam has recorded tremendous socio-economic achievements. Vietnam has been able to rise from a less developed country with a closed economy to a middle income country with a more dynamic and globally integrated economy. However, looking back on the past development, Vietnam's economic development is still unsustainable and competitiveness remains low. Becoming a middle-income country also poses challenges, such as how to avoid falling into the "middle income trap" and how to create a fast-growing and sustainable economy while ensuring social equality and progress, environmental friendly development.
At the same time, Vietnam is still faced with a number of external challenges, such as impacts from the global financial and monetary crisis, fierce competition in the world market or increasing connectivity in the Asia - Pacific. Only with internal strength can we handle external challenges and turn them into opportunities.
To that end, as indicated in the Social Economic Development Strategy till 2020, Vietnam is determined to promote a comprehensive reform with three strategic breakthroughs namely, completion of the market economic institutions, development of human resources and modernization of infrastructure in order to unleash the full potential of the country.
Regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), I think TPP is a large-scale agreement with the participation of key economies in the region and the world. TPP also covers many new-generation trade issues with higher level of commitments than other trade agreements Vietnam has concluded. However, given our thorough preparations, we have full confidence in participating successfully in this important process. In fact, we are working with the United States and other members in an effort to conclude negotiations in the earliest time possible.
We are aware that as a developing country with a lower level of development compared to other partner countries in the TPP, Vietnam needs to make greater efforts to improve the legal system, investment policies and procedures in order to create a business environment more conducive to foreign investment, helping accelerate the process of economic restructuring towards increasing added value, quality and efficiency of economic growth.