VIETNAM-KOREA DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS: STRONG AND COMPREHENSIVE DEVELOPMENT AFTER 15 YEARS

Following is the Interview by H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Korean Affairs Journal:

1.Korean Affairs Journal:  Could you please advise the purposes of the recent visit to the Republic of Korea by H.E. Mr. Nong Duc Manh, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : At the invitation of H.E. Mr. Roh Moon-hyun, President of the Republic of Korea, H.E. Mr. Nong Duc Manh, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam paid an official visit to the Republic of Korea from 14th to 16th November, 2007. The visit took place when the relationship and cooperation between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea were strongly developing in various fields and the two nations celebrated the 15th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The visit shows Vietnam’s high appreciation and determination to bring the bilateral relationship and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries to a new height with stability and sustainability in the interests of the two peoples and for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in Asia-Pacific and the world. Following the visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the visit by General Secretary Nong Duc Manh to the Republic of Korea reaffirms Vietnam’s policy of making positive contribution to the process of reconciliation, cooperation, peace and unification on the Korean Peninsula.

2. Question:  What are the key issues that Vietnam faces today? 

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : The reform process has brought about enormous achievements in all political, economic, cultural and social fields in Vietnam, thus creating a new face and posture for the country in the international arena. However, apart from successes and advantages, there remain various difficulties and challenges such as the possibility of lagging behind economically due to tougher competition in the world market, imbalances from the rich and poor gap, traditional and non-traditional security threats and social vices like red-tape, corruption and wastefulness, etc.
To address these challenges, we shall continue to pursue comprehensive reforms with special focus on improving the legal system; reforming the administrative apparatus and procedures; further developing all economic sectors, types of production and business organization, including the private sector; accelerating the equitisation of state-owned enterprises and increasing the competitiveness of Vietnamese businesses; developing human resources; further creating favourable conditions for foreign investors to do their business in Vietnam; and consistently and strictly implementing measures to curb red-tape and corruption in the state apparatus.

3. Question:  Could you please tell us about the current status of the Vietnamese economy?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : Since 1986, thanks to its comprehensive reform policy, Vietnam has been able to make enormous progresses in socio-economic development with a dynamic economy and become an interesting destination for foreign investors and tourists. In many successive years, the Vietnamese economy enjoyed a high and stable growth. Our GDP experiences an average annual increase of over 7%. In 2006 in particular, it reached 8.2%, ranking 2nd in Asia. It is expected to increase by 8.5% in 2007.
Vietnam is strongly transitioning to a market economy and actively integrating into the world. There are currently some 80 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with a total registered capital of over US$ 70 billion in about 8,000 projects. In 2006 alone, Vietnam attracted US$ 10.2 billion of FDI, marking an increase of 50% as against 2005. In 2007, the figure is expected to be over US$ 16 billion. Export turnover increases by 20% a year in the past years. The export value of the first 11 months of 2007 already reached US$ 44 billion.  
Vietnam has so far had economic, trade and investment relations with more than 220 economies. The country is also an active member of many international organisations such as ASEAN, APEC and ASEM. Vietnam became the 150th member of the World Trade Organisation in early 2007.

4. Question: Could you provide some sketches of Vietnam’s foreign policy?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : Vietnam pursues a consistent foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, diversification and multilateralisation of external relations. We are integrating deeper and more comprehensively into the international economy with the motto of ‘Vietnam is a friend, a reliable partner and an active and constructive member of the international community striving for peace, friendship, cooperation and sustainable development.’
At present, Vietnam gives priority to developing relations with neighbouring countries and major powers on the basis of respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and mutual benefits. In that spirit, Vietnamese leaders have recently paid official visits to China, ASEAN countries, Russia, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States.

5. Question: Could you give some anticipation on the prospects of the economic relations between Vietnam and the Republic of Korea? What areas would you encourage South Korean businesses to invest in?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : As you may know, the ROK has been a very important economic partner of Vietnam since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries one and a half decade ago. The ROK is among the countries having the biggest direct investment in Vietnam. The bilateral two-way trade volume has increased 10 times in the past 15 years, reaching US$ 4.9 billion in 2006. During his recent official visit to the ROK, General Secretary Nong Duc Manh met with President Roh Moon Hyun and the two leaders agreed to raise the bilateral trade volume to US$ 10 billion in 5 – 7 years. Vietnam is also an attractive destination for Korean tourists as 430,000 Korean tourists travelled to Vietnam in 2006 and this figure is estimated to go to 500,000 in 2007. The two countries have good conditions and potentials to enhance the bilateral cooperation. With strong cooperation and determination of the two countries’ leaders and business communities, I believe that our two countries will see rapid and effective developments in the bilateral economic relations in the time to come.
Vietnam is speeding up its industrialisation and modernisation process for further economic and social development. With their financial and technological strength and business experience, Korean corporations and businesses are fully capable of participating in projects on infrastructure development, including roads, highways, railways, airports and seaports. The Vietnamese Government encourages foreign businesses, including those from the ROK, to invest in important industrial and high-tech areas for national development, namely steel rolling, shipping, IT and telecommunication. Let us hope that more and more businesses from the ROK will come to Vietnam and achieve great success in Vietnam.

6. Question:  Could you give your opinion about the outlook for Vietnam in the 21st century?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : In the 10-year Socio-Economic Development Plan from 2001-2010 and the development orientation for 2020, the Vietnamese Party and Government are determined to bring Vietnam out of the list of ‘low income developing countries’ by 2008 and lay a foundation for the country to become a basically industrialised country by 2020 in order to have ‘a wealthy people, strong country, and a just, democratic and advanced society.’
The achievements of more than 20 years of reforms have brought about a new position and strength for Vietnam to enter a new stage of development in the 21st century. Along with economic and social progress, Vietnam’s external relations have been expanded much wider than ever. Vietnam’s position has been increasingly promoted both in the region and the world. International friends appreciate the enormous achievements of Vietnam’s renewal, integration and participation in international affairs in recent years. The position of Vietnam also means that the country must play a more responsible role in addressing global issues relating to security, peace and sustainable development of the international community. 

7. Question: How would you see the new role of the United Nations in the 21st century?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem :  The foundation and existence of the United Nations have been crucial and significant to the world political life during the past 60 years. Indeed, the organisation has obtained significant achievements in fulfilling its goals. 
Entering the 21st century, humankind is facing various regional and global issues that could not be addressed effectively by any single state.  Therefore, the UN will have an increasingly important role to play not only in the areas of peace and security but also in the fields of cooperation and development. The organisation’s priorities are to quickly accomplish all the MDGs and address global issues of its members’ concern for the sake of their interests. To that end, the UN’s World Summits in 2000 adopted the Millennium Declaration and in 2005 started the policy of sustainable development and harmonization of economic growth, social justice and environmental protection. Those proposals have been strongly supported by all UN members.
For our part, under the policy of enhancing multilateralism and considering the multilateral approach an effective and lasting way to handle common issues, Vietnam supports the UN’s central role in addressing global challenges in the 21st century. Vietnam also shares the common view that the UN reforms should be further promoted so that the organisation could better address global challenges. Vietnam is committed to doing our utmost to help push up the reform.

8. Question:  What are the impressions that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon gave you?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : Mr. Ban Ki Moon has officially become UN Secretary General since January 1, 2007. I had the opportunity to meet him when accompanying H.E. President Nguyen Minh Triet during his visit to the UN headquarters this June. Seeing his performance during his first one year in office in general and at the meeting in particular, I believe that with his capability and rich experience, Mr. Secretary General will successfully fulfil his mission.

9. Question: What are your impressions about the Republic of Korea?

H.E. Mr. Pham Gia Khiem : I have been to the Republic of Korea, a beautiful country, and met with the dynamic and hospitable Korean people. I also witnessed with my own eyes the pride-worthy economic achievements that the people of Korea have recorded. Long ago, ROK’s socio-economic achievements have been widely known as “the Han River Miracle”. On behalf of the Government and people of Vietnam, I would like to congratulate the Korean people for their enormous achievements of the past years. I wish that the ROK would enjoy continued growth, prosperity and greater role in Asia- Pacific region and the world at large./.

 
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