No foreign military bases allowed in Vietnam

Hanoi makes stand clear as Russia considers restoring Soviet-era bases in Vietnam, Cuba

HANOI • Vietnam said it would not allow other countries to set up military bases there, just days after Russia said it was considering reopening Soviet-era bases in Vietnam and Cuba.

Russian news agencies last week quoted a Russian deputy defence minister as saying Moscow was considering plans to restore the bases that had served as pivots for Soviet global military power during the Cold War.

"Vietnam's consistent policy is not to engage a military ally or engage with any country to oppose a third country," Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told a news briefing. "We will also not allow any other country to set up a military base in Vietnam."

While pursuing a neutral foreign policy to befriend many countries and allowing port calls by foreign warships, Vietnam still bars any permanent presence of foreign military forces.

Russia, which inherits a long relationship with Vietnam, withdrew from the deep-water Cam Ranh naval base in the early 2000s as part of its drawing down of military presence around the world after the demise of the Soviet Union.

Cam Ranh is the jewel in the crown of Vietnam's military, with an airbase once used by the United States and Soviet forces and a deep-water bay, home to its modern, Russian-built submarines.

Visits by foreign ships are rare and usually restricted to maintenance. US, Japanese and French warships have recently made port calls at Cam Ranh.

The possible expansion of the Russian naval presence in the Cam Ranh port and consequently the permanent presence of Russian military forces in this region represents a certain threat to the US naval base in Guam, said Mr Michael Kofman, a fellow at the Kennan Institute of the Wilson Centre specialising in Russian military analysis, according to news website Russia Beyond the Headlines.

Last year the US State Department asked the Vietnamese government to cancel Russia's right to have its strategic bombers refuel at the Cam Ranh Base because of allegedly "provocative" Russian aviation flights near the US base in Guam, the report said.

However, the Vietnamese government did not change its policy.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2016, with the headline 'No foreign military bases allowed in Vietnam'. Print Edition | Subscribe