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Vietnam celebrates UN Security Council seat

Vietnam on Wednesday celebrated a key step in its post-war global reintegration after the United Nations accepted it for the first time as a non-permanent Security Council member from next year.

Its new role will elevate Vietnam’s international prestige but also force its leaders who have been keen on friendly ties with almost all countries to make tough choices and take sides in world disputes, observers said.

The world body on Tuesday chose Vietnam, along with four other newcomers, to sit on the 15-member council for two years from January 1, meaning Vietnam will assume the rotating presidency for a month some time next year.

Communist Vietnam joined the United Nations 30 years ago two years after it emerged war-shattered but victorious from what is called here the American War and Hanoi first applied for a council seat a decade ago. Vietnam’s success in being chosen as the only new Asian country to join the Security Council comes in the same year the country became the 150th member of the World Trade Organisation.

Taking a council seat “is an opportunity for Vietnam to improve the prestige and image of a peace-loving country and make a realistic contribution to the common struggle of humanity,” said foreign ministry spokesman Le Dung.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said “becoming one of the 15 members of the most important agency of the largest international organisation is a great honour that also comes along with a heavy responsibility.”

For Vietnam “it is a major milestone for their diplomatic history,” said David Koh, an analyst with the Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Vietnam aimed “to play on a bigger stage, commensurate with their intention to integrate with the world and to multilateralise their foreign policy,” he said.

Vietnam expert Carl Thayer said Hanoi will earn respect from other governments especially in the 53-nation Asia bloc it will speak for but warned that it “will also have to make some hard decisions.”

“Up to now Vietnam has been a member of multilateral organisations that meet annually and which do not make binding decisions,” said Thayer, a veteran Vietnam-watcher with the Australian Defence Force Academy.

“Vietnam will have a vote on the most important issues facing the world.”

Post-war Vietnam has been at pains to cultivate friendly relations with countries ranging from the United States to Cuba, North Korea and Iran. “Vietnam will find that its foreign policy platitudes of making friends with all countries difficult to sustain when it is now required to vote on issues,” Thayer told AFP. “Sitting on the fence is not an option.”

Vietnam will also come under pressure to contribute troops to future UN peacekeeping missions and there are suggestions that the country is prepared to make a modest contribution to such efforts, said Thayer.

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem, writing in a newspaper this month, lauded the UN for its role in maintaining world peace and security and pushing for global disarmament.


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