TRANSCRIPT: JOINT PRESS CONFERENCE WITH VIETNAMESE DEFENCE MINISTER, GENERAL PHUNG QUANG THANH, HANOI, VIETNAM
TRANSCRIPTION: PROOF COPY E & OE
DATE: 29 AUGUST 2012
Vietnamese Defence Minister, General Phung Quang Thanh:
Distinguished guests, the Ministry of Defence of Vietnam is happy to receive Minister Smith on his visit to Vietnam and in our meeting we’ll discuss areas of cooperation identified in the Memorandum of Understanding that the two ministries of defence signed in 2010.
The purpose of Minister Smith’s visit to Vietnam this time is to strengthen friendship, understanding and cooperation between the two countries’ defence ministries, within the framework of the Memorandum of Understanding on bilateral defence cooperation.
We also look forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2013.
This morning we had a very open, candid and frank discussion on the basis of mutual understanding and mutual trust.
The following were the major topics of discussion:
firstly, we agreed to upgrade the annual strategic dialogue between the two countries’ defence ministries;
the second area of discussion was English training for Vietnamese army officers;
the third area of discussion was Australia’s cooperation with Vietnam on United Nations peacekeeping missions;
the fourth area of discussion was cooperation on exchange and sharing of experience concerning the special forces;
the fifth area of discussion was reciprocal navy ship visits between Australia and Vietnam, including related activities such as sharing and exchanging experience regarding search and rescue;
the sixth area of discussion was our request that the Australian Defence Department share its experience in order to help Vietnam overcome its war legacy, specifically with respect to de-mining and de-bombing.
We also exchanged views on security issues of mutual concern in the Asia-Pacific region.
We highly appreciate His Excellency Mr Smith’s visit to Vietnam and are pleased with the outcome of our meeting this morning.
We had a very successful discussion, in a frank, open and friendly spirit.
And now I'd like to leave the floor to Mr Smith for his remarks.
Australian Defence Minister, Mr Stephen Smith:
Well Minister thank you very much for your warm hospitality and thank you for our productive meeting. This is my third visit to Vietnam as an Australian Government Minister and my last visit to Vietnam coincided with Vietnam’s hosting of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting in October 2010.
Australia's relationship with Vietnam has grown considerably in recent years. Our economic ties are strengthening. There are a significant number of Vietnamese students who study in Australia. Australia is a significant development assistance partner with Vietnam. And each year nearly 300,000 Australian tourists come to Vietnam. So our bilateral links across the board go from strength to strength.
In the margins of the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting in Hanoi in 2010, the Minister and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding for defence cooperation. And today, we have discussed how we can enhance our practical cooperation to take the Memorandum of Understanding forward.
And the Minister has outlined those areas of practical cooperation; in areas of Vietnamese officer training, particularly, in English language training. And in my visit here today and tomorrow, I'll announce a further contribution from Australia to add to the language training we already do.
We are sharing with Vietnam our United Nations peacekeeping experience and helping to put Vietnam in a position to make a contribution in the future to peacekeeping arrangements.
We have discussed the exchange of navy ship visits and maritime exercises that can be conducted to coincide with those visits, in particular, search and rescue exercises.
We are also at the early stages of sharing experiences so far as our special forces are concerned. And I’ve indicated to the Minister that Australia is prepared to see what further contribution it can make so far as unexploded ordinance and de-mining of Vietnam is concerned.
As the Minister indicated, we also discussed issues of mutual interest to Australia and Vietnam in our region. Australia and Vietnam, in addition to a strongly growing bilateral relationship, now also work closely together in regional institutions, in particular, the ASEAN related forums, the East Asia Summit and, so far as defence ministers are concerned, the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting which Vietnam so successfully chaired in 2010.
And in the context of a growing bilateral relationship, a growing defence relationship, as the Minister has indicated, he and I have agreed that Vietnam and Australia’s Defence Ministers should meet on an annual basis. And to help mark the 40th anniversary of our diplomatic relations next year, I’ve invited the Minister to visit Australia for 2013.
Later this afternoon, I’m looking very much forward to the honour of calling upon the Prime Minister. And I again thank the Minister for his invitation to visit Vietnam for my third occasion, for our productive conversation today and for the warm hospitality that he has shown to me and to the Australian delegation. Thank you.
Thank you very much Minister.
Now we’d like to invite journalists to put questions to the two Ministers. Before you ask questions, we’d like to ask you to give your name and workplace.
Reporter (Captain Vu Manh Hung) from Vietnam's People’s Army Newspaper:
I’d like to ask two questions. The first is for both ministers. I’m aware that, in your meeting, you talked about the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region. Could both Ministers go into a bit more detail about these discussions and give their assessments of the security situation in the region?
The second question is for the Australian Defence Minister. In the past, the two defence ministries have cooperated closely on training and I’d like to ask, in the future, does the Australian Defence Department intend to increase the number of Vietnamese military trainees sent to study in Australian or not?
Well firstly, so far as the international and regional issues that we discussed, as the whole world knows, political, economic, strategic influence is moving to our part of the world, to the Asia-Pacific. The rise of China, the rise of India, the rise of the ASEAN economies combined and the ongoing, deeply significant importance of the United States.
In this context we discussed the essential importance of a positive bilateral relationship between the United States and China and the need for China and the United States to grow its relationship, so that its political relationship, its strategic relationship, its defence to defence and military to military relationship is at the same high level as its very significant economic relationship.
We also discussed the potential for maritime or territorial disputes in our part of the world and I outlined to the Minister Australia’s very strong view in this respect that such maritime disputes have to be settled amicably by the parties concerned and in accordance with international law, in accordance with international norms and in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Australia does not take sides in any such maritime or territorial disputes. But Australia does strongly urge the parties concerned to resolve these matters amicably in accordance with international law. We are also of the view that because, if these matters are not handled calmly and carefully, they can be causes for concern and potential for misjudgement and miscalculation.
And because they do have this potential, Australia believes that the relevant regional institutions, like the East Asia Summit, like the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus are entitled to take an interest in such matters.
And in this context Australia supports the ASEAN Code of Conduct as a starting point for regional discussions on this matter.
Finally, on the capacity of Australia to consider training more Vietnamese officers. On an annual basis, we would see about 100 Vietnamese officers come to Australia for officer training, language and other training.
As a general proposition, Vietnam is Australia’s second largest recipient of scholarships for educational purposes.
And today I have undertaken to the Minister to examine the possibility for Australia to look to scholarships for military officers to come to Australia and secondly for us to look at Vietnamese officers coming to Australia for longer courses rather than for shorter courses.
And we’re also happy, as capacity allows, to look to increasing the number of Vietnamese military officers who come to Australia on an annual basis. Thank you.
Actually Mr Smith has given a very comprehensive answer to your question, with which I thoroughly agree.
No further questions.