The following are translations from People’s Daily and from the Voice of Russia‘s German service.
Links within blockquotes added during translation.
People’s Daily, July 30, 2012
Russian president Vladimir Putin said on July 27 that Russia would provide ten billion US dollars in loans to Vietnam, eight billion thereof for the construction of nuclear power plants in Vietnam. Vietnamese state chairman Truong Tan Sang said on the same day that Vietnam will allow Russia to build a ship maintenance base in Cam Ranh Bay. Truong Tan Sang clarified that Russian use of the bay didn’t amount to a military base, but it could help to improve “military cooperation” between the two sides, and agreed with Russia’s proposal to upgrade the two countries’ relations to a a strategic-partnership level.
In fact, Putin’s generous loan for Vietnam means to counter American encroachment on Cam Ranh Bay. In June this year, American secretary of defense Leon Panetta made a high-key three-day visit to Vietnam, after participating in the Shangrila Dialog Forum. On June 3, Panetta visited and inspected Cam Ranh Bay’s former American base, thus being the first American secretary of defense after the Vietnam war to visit Cam Ranh Bay. He then separately met with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung and defense minister Phung Quang Thanh, to explore the prospects of military cooperation between the two countries.
At a joint press conference with the Vietnamese defense minister, Panetta publicly said: “Only if Vietnam or the Philippines become powerful, there will be stability in the South-East Asian region.”1) Panetta also said that Cam Ranh Bay was an important harbor bay, and if Vietnam wanted to improve the Cam Ranh Bay area and needed help, America would like to provide help. The U.S. Navy would be interested in visiting Cam Ranh Bay regularly in the future. Panetta emphasized that the purpose of his trip to Vietnam was to establish mutual trust between the two countries and their militaries. America and Vietnam should continue to develop their bilateral relations in all fields, especially in defense and security cooperation. Panetta’s visit, full of symbolic meaning got [a lot of] attention and was seen as a prelude to growing warmth in comprehensive U.S.-Vietnamese military cooperation.
在与越南国防部长冯光青举行的联合记者会上，帕内塔公开表示：“只有越南或菲律宾变得强大，东南亚地区才会稳定。”帕内塔还表示，金兰湾是一个重要的港 湾，如果越南有意改善金兰湾地区且需要帮助，美国愿意提供。美国海军未来有意再次赴金兰湾做定期访问。帕内塔强调说，他越南之行的目的是建立两国和两军之 间的互信。美越应该继续发展各领域的双边关系，特别是在国防和安全合作方面。这次充满象征意义的访问备受关注，被认为是美越军事合作全面升温的前奏。
Cam Ranh Bay in itself isn’t significant for Vietnam. Its navy currently only has less than ten frigates, and isn’t able to build frigates by itself. Therefore, no matter how beautiful its harbors might be, Vietnam’s navy is also just a theoretically-existing navy. Therefore, the significance of Cam Ranh Bay lies in the stationing of big powers’ fleets there.
Ever since normalization of its relations with Vietnam, Cam Ranh Bay has been on the Americans’ minds, and they made demands to have Cam Ranh Bay leased to them. Especially in 1992, when America withdrew from its last stronghold – Subic Bay and Clark Air Base in the Philippines -, America wanted to return to Cam Ranh Bay even more. In 1994, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Richard Macke addressed the issue of re-opening Cam Ranh Bay as a military base.
It seems that by now, America and Vietnam have made up their minds to cooperate. Panetta said in June that to deploy its warships from its West Coast to the Asia-Pacific region, it just needed to be able to use harbors like Cam Ranh Bay. […]
As it gains national strength, Russia also prepares to return to Cam Ranh Bay. On October 6, 2010, the Russian Naval Inspection Department “suddenly” said that the Russian Navy bad recently completed its work on material relating to a restoration of Cam Ranh Bay. If possible, Cam Ranh Bay should be used as a naval base again within three years. Russian paper “The Independent” quoted naval sources as saying that would enter a leasing contract to return to Cam Ranh Bay. The leasing period should have a duration of at least 25 years, with a possibility to extend the duration after those 25 years.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry said many times that it wouldn’t lease Cam Ranh Bay to foreigners, asserting that “Vietnam emphasized many times that it won’t use Cam Ranh Bay for military purposes in cooperation with foreign countries, and will develop the Cam Ranh Bay region’s potential for serving the cause of construction and defense of the country”. But there are also views that when it comes to the fengshui treasure of Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam is waiting for the best bid and has turned Cam Ranh Bay bargaining chip in its game with America, Russia, and even China.
Voice of Russia (German service), July 30, 2012
Russia, or its official media, seem to see Cam Ranh as a future naval base, anyway. At least, that’s how a Russian press review by the Voice of Russia’s German service comes across (even if with one or two side blows at the Russian navy). However, the story may already be superseded by more remarks from Moscow which deny that Cam Ranh Bay would become a full military base, and from Vietnamese state chairman Truong, who remarked (also to the Voice of Russia, reportedly) that the ship repair and maintenance facilities at Cam Ranh Bay will be available to all friendly navies and can be used to deepen military cooperation between Hanoi and Moscow. Anyway, the Voice of Russia reported [earlier] that
Russia intends to establish as many as three naval bases abroad. [The return] to the Vietnamese harbor Cam Ranh and to the Cuban harbor of Lourdes are planned. The admirals may rather prefer the Seychelles, which are popular with tourists. Experts view this as future plans, however, as currently, the country [Russia] has nothing to deploy there.
Russland hat vor, gleich drei Marinestützpunkte im Ausland einzurichten. Geplant ist [die Rückkehr] in dem vietnamesischen Hafen Cam Ranh und den kubanischen Hafen Lourdes. Die Admiräle werden wohl die bei den Touristen populären Seychellen-Inseln vorziehen. Experten bewerten dies aber als Zukunftspläne, weil heute das Land einfach über nichts verfügt, was es in den ausländischen Stützpunkten stationieren könnte.2)
1) From the U.S. Department of Defense transcript:
And the goal of the United States — let me make clear — is to advance exactly what the general referred to, advance the independence and the sovereignty of all nations in this region. It is in the interest of stability — it’s in the interest of stability to have a strong Vietnam, a strong Indonesia, a strong Philippines, a strong Singapore and strong nations throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Frankly, the most destabilizing situation would be if we had a group of weak nations and only the United States and China were major powers in this region.
2) Voice of Russia (Stimme Russlands), July 30, 10:10 GMT, 15700 kHz.