The year 2013 wrapped up with busy foreign relations activities, making important contributions to the national construction and development.

On the occasion of the New Year 2014, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh granted an interview to the press on Vietnam’s foreign relations work in 2013 and its major plans for this year.

He said that in 2013, the regional and global situations continued to undergo complicated developments with profound impacts on the environment of peace, security and stability in our country, creating both opportunities and challenges.

In this context, the Party and State’s foreign relation work was carried out in a positive and proactive manner, achieving important outcomes that contributed to the protection of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and the maintenance of a peaceful and stable environment while raising Vietnam 's position in the international arena, he said.

According to Minh, 2013 witnessed a number of visits by made by high-ranking leaders of the Party, State, Government and National Assembly to neighbouring countries, major countries and the nation’s most important and traditional partners.

Via these visits, Vietnam upgraded its relations to a strategic partnership with Italy, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore and France; and a comprehensive partnership with the US and Denmark .

If including partnerships it had previously set up with Russia, China, India and Japan, Vietnam now has strategic partnership with 13 countries and comprehensive partnership with 11 others, including five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

The Deputy PM said last year also saw a wide range of activities in multilateral diplomacy at regional and international forums. President Truong Tan Sang attended the 21st APEC Summit and the high-level Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) meeting in Bali, Indonesia (October 6-8, 2013); PM Nguyen Tan Dung attended and delivered a keynote address at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore (May 2013), the 2013 World Economic Forum on East Asia in Myanmar (June 2013), the 68th session of the UN General Assembly (September 2013), the 23rd ASEAN Summit, the East Asia Summit (October 9-10, 2013), and the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit.

The highlight of multilateral diplomacy in 2013 was the widespread international support Vietnam earned from important organisations and multilateral forums. For the first time, the country was elected to the UN Human Rights Council with the highest number of votes among candidates, he said.

It was also elected as the chairman of the Board of Governors of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for the 2013-14 term, and elected to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for the 2014-2017 tenure.

Vietnam will host the 132nd Assembly of the International Parliamentary Union (IPU) in March 2015. For the second time, Vietnam was entrusted to host the APEC Summit in 2017. Currently, Vietnam is actively preparing to participate in the UN peacekeeping force, and is nominated to become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2020-2021 term and the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) for the 2016-2018 tenure.

The above results in multilateral diplomacy affirmed Vietnam 's active and proactive role as a responsible member of the international community, Minh affirmed.

He went on to say that together with its proactive and positive international integration, Vietnam actively participated in negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP); negotiations on free trade agreements (FTAs) with the EU, the Republic of Korea, and the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan Customs Union.

The country also successfully organised the ASEM high-level Meeting on Disaster Prevention and Relief and the economic co-operation forum between Vietnam and the Middle East-North Africa (November, 2013), he added.

The mobilisation work of other countries to recognise the market economy in Vietnam also achieved encouraging results. To date, 43 countries have recognised the market economy in Vietnam . In the framework of the Mekong Sub-regional cooperation, the nation contributed positively to promoting cooperation in the fields of infrastructure development, human resources, climate change response, and sustainable development.

The promotion of trade, investment and tourism was also enhanced to support sectors, localities and enterprises in seeking partners and expanding markets.
The border work and protection of sovereignty and territorial integrity received special care and direction. The situation on borders with China , Laos and Cambodia is basically stable. Vietnam and Laos officially completed the increase and upgrade of border markers along their 2,067km border, positioning 834 border markers in 792 locations in July 2013. The two countries also signed an agreement on dealing with free migration and unregistered marriage in Vietnam-Laos border areas at the same time.

Vietnam and China held a conference to review the three-year implementation of three important documents on border policies, and accelerated the progress of negotiations towards the signing of an agreement on the utilisation and protection of tourism resources at Ban Gioc Waterfall.

Regarding the East Sea issue, the Deputy PM said that Vietnam established a principle of perseverance and resolute struggle against China’s violations on the sovereignty and legitimate rights of Vietnam at sea, enlisted the frequent concern and support of the regional and international communities, and ensured its economic activities in the exclusive economic zone and continental shelf of 200 nautical miles. At the same time, Vietnam continued negotiating with China on issues relating to both countries in order to ease tension and gradually find basic and long-term solutions to the East Sea dispute on the basis of international law.

The fight for democracy, human rights and religious freedom was implemented in a synchronous, appropriate and constructive manner, thereby making further contributions to national security while lessening the negative impacts of issues related to democracy and human rights in the promotion of relations with other countries, he said.

The work related to cultural diplomacy, overseas Vietnamese affairs, consular services, protection of citizens and foreign relations information was deployed strongly and achieved significant results, thus improving the image of Vietnam in the world and contributing to strengthening the national great unity bloc and protecting the legitimate rights of Vietnamese compatriots, he added.

With the above achievements, Vietnam’s foreign relation work has made significant contributions to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, firmly protecting independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interests while taking advantage of favourable conditions of international integration and foreign resources to serve the national development, Minh said.-VNA