Dempsey Building Trust in Vietnam Visit
Dempsey Building Trust in Vietnam Visit
By Jim Garamone, DoD News, Defense
Washington D.C. – (DoD
News) – August 15, 2014 – Building trust and confidence is the theme for the
first visit by a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Vietnam since 1971.
U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey,
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets members of his Vietnamese
counterpart's staff upon his arrival in Hanoi, Vietnam
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey met with his Vietnamese
counterpart Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty in Hanoi. The two men discussed the future of the
military-to-military relationship between their countries, but also the legacy
of the Vietnam War. The chairman will also visit Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City
during his visit.
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty Vietnamese chief of
defense, in Hanoi
Dempsey’s visit is a message to the region that the United
States is serious about the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, even as the American
military is confronted with challenges in other parts of the world, defense
Dempsey said in an interview with USA Today’s Tom Vanden
Brook that his formative years were colored by the specter of the war in
Vietnam. Dempsey graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1974 -- too late to
serve in that war. “I said to General Ty that ‘I spent the first four years of
my military career preparing to fight you,’” Dempsey said. “There’s something
profound about being here now trying to build a relationship on the basis of
And the two countries do have common interests. Vietnam’s
geostrategic position -- sitting between straddling China and Southeast Asia --
makes the nation an important factor player in finding a peaceful solution to
the territorial issues in the South China Sea, the chairman said. “They probably
have more influence on the South China Sea and how it evolves than any other
country,” he noted.
U.S. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
participates in a Vietnamese honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in
The two military leaders also discussed longstanding issues
related to the Vietnam War, including the U.S. Agent Orange remediation program,
finding and recovering U.S. personnel and addressing the problem of leftover
unexploded ordnance. The two countries cooperate closely on all these issues,
Dempsey said. “We owe it to each other to keep making progress on those
[issues],” he said.
These programs were more prominent in discussions a year ago
than they are today, Dempsey said. “We’re moving beyond those legacy war issues
and toward a new relationship,” the chairman said.
Vietnamese military members march during
an honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of Defense in Hanoi
All relationships are founded on trust “and that doesn’t
happen overnight,” the general said.
The U.S. and Vietnamese militaries are working together in
maritime security, disaster relief and humanitarian assistance. “We’ve made a
tentative agreement to increase the frequency and depth of our staff talks so we
understand each others’ long-term strategies for the region,” Dempsey said.
“That’s the place where we can make the most progress.”
Dempsey said he’s seeing more information sharing happening
between the United States and Vietnam in the maritime domain as well as more
work with maritime law enforcement. “We’re working most closely right now with
their coast guard, to establish a law enforcement capability to protect their
economic exclusion zone … so they don’t get militarized,” he said.
Vietnamese honor guard ceremony at the Ministry of
Defense in Hanoi, Vietnam
U.S. officials are also working with Vietnamese counterparts
to enhance the training program for maritime operations.
Dempsey stressed that the U.S. interest in Vietnam is not all
about countering China. “The shadow of China hangs over the region,” he said.
“Everyone thinks our interest here is just about China. It’s not.”
The rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region is inevitable as
the area grows and expands in economic, political and diplomatic clout, he said.
“This is important and we do have our shoulder behind it,” the chairman added.
This was Dempsey’s first visit to Vietnam and he said he was
struck by the vibrancy of life and the colors of the city. “…Standing on the
platform for the honor ceremony, listening to the two national anthems and
seeing the two national flags flying side-by-side, it occurred to me that often
adversaries in the past can become our closest friends,” the chairman said.
“That won’t happen without some effort, but I think there’s a possibility there.”
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter:
Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
The Defense Department on Facebook
The Defense Department on Twitter
DoD News on Facebook
DoD News on Twitter
DoD Video News