HANOI • Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang has urged further modernisation of the armed forces, in the face of growing maritime territorial disputes, as the nation celebrated 70 years since it declared independence from France.
More than 30,000 people, from soldiers to schoolgirls, marched in a lavish parade in the capital Hanoi yesterday to mark the anniversary of founding president Ho Chi Minh's proclamation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam.
One of the country's largest in years, the parade did not involve heavy military equipment, but was part of a drive to inspire "patriotism, self-reliance and aspirations for peace", organisers said.
Ho's famous Sept 2, 1945 speech - part of which was taken from the United States Declaration of Independence - launched a new era of struggle to end nearly a century of French colonial rule and the later fight to reunify Vietnam.
Speaking in the same Ba Dinh square where the communist leader was 70 years ago, Mr Sang yesterday took aim at new global power struggles in the region. "Disputes over sea and islands are on the rise, especially in the East Sea," he said, referring to the South China Sea by its Vietnamese name.
Such maritime territorial disputes are a direct threat to Vietnam's "peace, stability, territorial sovereignty and integrity", he added, calling for further modernisation of the armed forces so that the country would be better prepared.
After Ho's 1945 declaration, it took another nine years for Vietnam to score a decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954.
The US then entered the conflict, hoping to forestall the emergence of a communist Vietnam.
Earlier this year, Hanoi also celebrated the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on April 30, marking the communist victory over American forces.
The communist party has ruled unified Vietnam since 1975 and, while the country has enjoyed rapid economic growth in recent years, it remains locked in a longstanding territorial dispute with Beijing over island chains and waters in the South China Sea.
Vietnam's authoritarian regime has also struggled to balance vocal domestic criticism of its handling of the dispute with its traditionally friendly ties with fellow communists in Beijing.
According to Vietnam's foreign ministry, Mr Sang will be in China today to attend a military parade, which marks the anniversary of the end of World War II in Asia.
Western leaders are shunning the event, which analysts say is a bid by Beijing to hammer home its growing global importance.