Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Vietnam flagVietnam

Overview Last updated: January, 2014

Vietnam is not believed to possess nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons, or programs for their development.

It is a party to most relevant nonproliferation treaties and agreements, including the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). However, Vietnam is not a member of any of the major export control regimes. Hanoi has submitted three national reports on the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 (UNSCR 1540). Although currently the country lacks a unified or central authority to oversee strategic trade controls, Vietnam has been receptive to 1540-related international assistance. However, it is unlikely that Hanoi will put an overarching law for strategic trade controls in place in the near future.

Nuclear

Vietnam does not possess a nuclear weapons program. There is no publicly available evidence to suggest that Hanoi sought nuclear weapons historically, although declassified documents indicate the United States considered using nuclear weapons against North Vietnam in the last half of the conflict. [1] Vietnam became a non-nuclear weapon state party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1982. [2] Hanoi signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1996, and ratified the CTBT in 2006 as an Annex-2 country. [3] Vietnam has a Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which entered into force in 1990, and has concluded an IAEA Additional Protocol. [4] At the regional level, Vietnam is a member of the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (Treaty of Bangkok). [5]

Vietnam is poised to be the first Southeast Asian country with nuclear power, although a number of capacity-related obstacles may delay this.[6] On 21 July 2011, the Prime Minister approved the National Master Plan for Powered Development for 2011-2020 with the Vision to 2030. [7] The plan calls for seven reactors to be built, with the first completed by 2030. At that point, Vietnam plans a nuclear power capacity of 10,700 MW or 10.1% of its electricity production. Russia's Atomstroyexport will build Vietnam's first nuclear power plant at Phuoc Dinh (Ninh Thuan 1), consisting of two 1000MWe reactors. Russia has agreed to provide the majority of financing for the project—up to $9 billion according to a November 2011 agreement—and will provide additional assistance such as training and fuel services, including construction of a Nuclear Science and Technology Center and spent fuel take-back for the reactors. Japan has agreed to construct a second nuclear power plant at Vinh Hai (Ninh Thuan 2), composed of two 1000MWe reactors, and to provide additional training and assistance. [8] However, on 18 January 2014, the Vietnamese Government announced the Russian nuclear power plant contract could be delayed until 2020 due to safety concerns following the Fukushima earthquake. This delay will most likely affect the construction of the second Japanese power plant as well. [9]

Vietnam already maintains a research reactor at the Dalat Nuclear Research Center, which has operated since 1963. [10] This reactor originally operated using highly enriched uranium (HEU). By 2007, the reactor operated on mixed HEU and LEU assemblies, however Vietnam announced it would fully convert the reactor to low enriched uranium (LEU) at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2010. [11] This conversion was completed in December 2011.[12] In June 2013, the final 16kg of Vietnam's HEU stock was shipped back to Russia. [13]

In preparation for the construction of its nuclear power plants, Vietnam has expressed a willingness to improve its domestic capacity and to cooperate with the IAEA. Vietnam adopted an Atomic Energy Law in 2008 to provide a legal framework for its nuclear activities. [14] This law focuses on ensuring safety of persons, environment, and nonproliferation. The Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety and Control (VARANSAC) and the Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute (VAEI) are the two main agencies, under the Ministry of Science and Technology, responsible for nuclear safety and security. Vietnam conducted a self-assessment of its nuclear infrastructure from December 2007 through December 2008, and in 2009 requested that the IAEA conduct an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) Mission. [15] The INIR Mission report suggested areas of improvement including, among others, human resources development and nuclear power project management. As a result, Hanoi established the Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency (VAEA) in 2010 to oversee research, development, and project management; the National Nuclear Safety Committee; the National Steering Committee of the Ninh Thuan Nuclear Power Plant Project; the Master Plan for Nuclear Power Development in Vietnam up to 2030; and the Master Project for Human Resources Development and Training for Atomic Energy in Vietnam up to 2020. [16]

On 30 March 2010, the United States and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding Concerning Cooperation in the Civil Nuclear Field, as a preliminary step to the negotiation of a 123 bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement. [17] At the East Asian Summit in Brunei in October 2013, both parties signed a 123 agreement which will establish the legal framework for nuclear commerce between the United States and Vietnam if and when it enters into force. [18] While the text of the agreement has not been made public, it appears that the Obama Administration did not impose the "gold standard" provision on Vietnam. [19] The "gold standard" provision refers to the U.S.-UAE 123 agreement, under which the UAE agreed not to pursue indigenous uranium enrichment or plutonium reprocessing capabilities. [20] Despite Congressional pressure to uniformly apply the "gold standard" to new 123 agreements, the Administration is so far negotiating agreements on a case-by-case basis. [21] Although a Vietnamese official stated that "Vietnam does not plan to enrich uranium, which is a very sensitive issue," Hanoi did not wish to agree to the inclusion of a no-enrichment and reprocessing pledge in the 123 agreement. [22] Like many non-nuclear weapon states, Vietnam believes that the NPT affords it the right to all capabilities associated with the peaceful nuclear fuel cycle. [23] On 7 January, the U.S. and Taiwan reached a nuclear cooperation deal that will last for an indefinite period of time without congressional review. Although the US-Vietnam nuclear cooperation agreement does not meet the gold standard, Vietnam also wishes to have indefinite extensions. [24]

Preliminary surveys indicate that Vietnam has uranium ore in the northern and central parts of the country estimated in the amount of 210,000 tons of U3O8. [25] The Vietnamese government signed an MOU with NWT Uranium Corporation of Canada to conduct exploration and assessment of these areas. [26] Vietnam concluded a nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan in October 2011 that includes the exploration and mining of uranium resources. An agreement with India includes a uranium ore processing technology study. [27]

Chemical

Vietnam cites its historical conflict with the United States as its reason for supporting the universal elimination of chemical weapons (CW). [28] During Operation Ranch Hand, from 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used more than 18 million gallons of herbicide in Vietnam. [29] Such herbicides are not scheduled chemicals controlled by the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), and are therefore not considered chemical weapons under international law, but their reported health effects on the Vietnamese population and U.S. soldiers have made their use controversial. [30] In August 2012, the U.S. announced a cleanup effort at a site near Da Nang which is contaminated with dioxin, commonly known as Agent Orange. [31] The cleanup program, lead by USAID, will cost $43 million over four years and the government is considering cleanup efforts at other sites. [32]

Vietnam signed the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 1993 and ratified it in 1998. [33] In 2005, Vietnam issued a decree that implemented the CWC. [34] The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) has conducted industrial inspections in Vietnam since 2003, and co-hosted capacity-building workshops and seminars in Southeast Asia with Vietnam. [35]

Vietnam's chemical industry, which is composed primarily of non-state sector establishments, accounts for only a small percentage of Vietnam's total industry. [36] Although Vietnam's chemical enterprises depend upon outdated infrastructure and are relatively inefficient, they are capable of producing fertilizers, pesticides and petrochemicals. [37] Vietnam also exports chemicals for industrial use, and has a licensing system in place to support the country's export control obligations under the CWC. The Vietnam Chemicals Agency (Vinachemia) is the implementing agency for Vietnam's CWC commitments, including export licensing. [38] Vietnam is not a participant in the Australia Group (AG), although the group did visit Vietnam as part of its outreach briefing efforts in 2012-2013. [39]

Biological

There is no evidence that Vietnam ever developed a biological weapons program, and Hanoi acceded to the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention (BTWC) in 1980. [40] However, then U.S. Secretary of State Alexander Haig accused the Soviet Union of supplying tricothecene mycotoxin to Vietnam for military purposes from 1975 to 1984. [41] Tricothecene mycotoxin, a toxin made by fungal molds that infects grain, allegedly caused 'Yellow Rain,' a sticky yellow substance that refugees claim was used against them by the Vietnamese government. However, Matthew Meselson, a Harvard biologist, argued that yellow rain could have been produced by deposits of bee feces. [42] The issue remains controversial today. [43]

The Vietnamese government has since 1994 identified biotechnology as a national development priority. [44] Agriculture accounts for roughly 20% of Vietnam's GDP, and the Vietnamese government has actively pursued capacity-building in agricultural biotechnology. [45] In particular, Vietnam hopes to build its capacity to develop genetically modified crops, new microorganism strains, and other biological agro-products to support the country's agricultural sector. [46] Vietnamese officials have also publicly acknowledged Vietnam's need for more stringent biosecurity regulations and controls, which continue to lag behind those of other countries in the region. [47] Vietnam has publicly stated an intent to build a more robust legal biosafety framework, in addition to improving its intellectual capital and encouraging greater investment. [48] In 2006, the Ministry of Health of Vietnam issued two circulars guiding the import of medical and biological products. [49] Vietnam is not a participant in the Australia Group, but is a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. [50]

Missile

According to a compilation of UN Register of Conventional Arms reports, Vietnam imported two S300 PMU1 air defense batteries (12 launchers) sixty two S-300 missiles and a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system produced by NPO Almaz in Russia [now Almaz-Antey]. [51] In 2011, the purchase was confirmed when Vietnam leaked images of the S-300 PMU1 in a military calendar. [52] Tuoi Tre, a Vietnamese Daily published by the Communist Youth Union, also displayed images of the SAMs stating they were to be "used to prevent air or sea attacks by foreign enemy/enemies." [53] Vietnam also deploys 3M-54 Klub submerged launched cruise missiles for its Kilo class submarines. [54] As of 2008, Jane's reports that Vietnam currently deploys Russian-supplied Scud, Styx (anti-ship), Switchblade, and Stooge missiles, and North Korean-supplied Scud C variants. [55] In July 2013, India extended a $100 million USD credit line to Vietnam to purchase military equipment. While this particular line of credit will be used for four patrol boats, Vietnam has expressed interest in acquiring India's Brahmos missile. [56]

Hanoi is not believed to have an indigenous ballistic missile manufacturing capability. [57] Vietnam is not a member of the MTCR or the Wassenaar Arrangement, as it is not a significant producer of missile-related technology. [58]

Sources:
[1] William Burr and Jeffrey Kimball, ed., "Nixon White House Considered Nuclear Options Against North Vietnam, Declassified Documents Reveal," National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 195, 31 July 2006, www.gwu.edu.
[2] United Nations, "Status of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons," www.un.org.
[3] CTBTO Preparatory Commission, "Status of Signature and Ratification," www.ctbto.org.
[4] International Atomic Energy Agency, "Status List: Conclusion of Safeguards Agreements, Additional Protocols and Small Quantities Protocols," www.iaea.org.
[5] Association of Southeast Asian Nations, "Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free-Zone, Bangkok, Thailand 15 December 1995," 15 December 1995, www.aseansec.org.
[6] Norimitsu Onishi, "Vietnam's Nuclear Dreams Blossom Despite Doubts," The New York Times, 1 March 2012, www.nytimes.com.
[7] "Quy hoạch phát triển điện lực quốc gia giai đoạn 2011 – 2020 có xét đến năm 2030 [National Master Plan for Electricity Development, period 2011-2020 with Vision to 2030]," 21 July 2011, via: http://vietlaw.gov.vn.
[8] Le Doan Phac, "Vietnam's Nuclear Power Development Plan: Challenges and Preparation Work for the First Nuclear Power Projects," presentation at INPRO Dialogue Forum on Nuclear Energy Innovations, Vienna, 10-14 October 2011, www.iaea.org; "Nuclear Power in Vietnam," World Nuclear Association, January 2012, www.world-nuclear.org; "A Meeting between Co-Chairs of the Vietnam-Russia Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic and Scientific Cooperation Took Place in Hanoi," Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, 23 November 2011, www.rosatom.ru.
[9] Manabu Sasaki, “Nuclear Safety Concerns in Vietnam Could Delay Japanese Project,” Asai Shimbun, 18 January 2014, http://www.asahi.com/english.
[10] "Dalat Research Reactor," IAEA Research Reactor Database, http://nucleus.iaea.org/RRDB.
[11] Pavel Podvig, "Vietnam to Return Spent Fuel of Research Reactor in Dalat to Russia," IPFM Blog, International Panel on Fissile Materials, 16 March 2012, http://fissilematerials.org; "Highlights of National Commitments," Nuclear Security Summit, Washington, DC, 12-13 April 2010, www.thenuclearsecuritysummit.org.
[12] "Vietnam Nuclear Reactor Fully Converted to Low-Enriched Uranium," Thanh Nien News, 2 December 2011, www.thanhniennews.com; "Vietnam, Russia Ink Nuclear Fuel Rods Deal," Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation, 20 March 2012, www.rosatom.ru.
[13] Fredrik Dahl, "U.S., Russia Remove Potential Atom Bomb Material from Vietnam," Reuters, 2 July 2013, www.reuters.com.
[14] Vietnam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety, "Atomic Energy Law Adopted," www.varans.vn; Socialist Republic of Vietnam, "Luật số 18/2008/QH12 Luật Năng lượng nguyên tử [The Atomic Energy Law]," 3 June 2008, www.vbqppl.moj.gov.vn.
[15] Hoang Anh Tuan, "Status of the National Infrastructure Development for Nuclear Power in Vietnam," Vietnam Atomic Energy Commission, December 2008, www.iaea.org; Pham Quang Trung, "Experience with IAEA INIR Mission in Vietnam," Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, February 2011, www.iaea.org.
[16] Pham Quang Trung, "Experience with IAEA INIR Mission in Vietnam," Vietnam Atomic Energy Agency, February 2011, www.iaea.org.
[17] U.S. Department of State, "U.S.-Vietnam Cooperation on Civil Nuclear Power and Nuclear Security," 30 March 2010, www.state.gov; "USA and Vietnam Agree to Nuclear Cooperation," World Nuclear News, 31 March 2010, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[18] "Agreement Opens US-Vietnam Nuclear Trade," World Nuclear News, October 10, 2013, www.world-nuclear-news.org.
[19] Miles A. Pomper, Jessica C. Varnum, "Future of Enrichment 'Gold Standard' in Doubt After US-Vietnam Nuclear Deal," World Politics Review, October 21, 2013, www.worldpoliticsreview.com.
[20] Elaine Grossman, "U.S. Nuclear Trade Policy Concerns Mounting on Capitol Hill," Global Security Newswire, 17 February 2012, www.nti.org.
[21] Elaine M. Grossman, "Administration Letter Promises ‘Case-by-Case' Approach to Nuclear Trade Deals," Global Security Newswire, 23 January 2012, www.nti.org.
[22] Foster Klug, "US-Vietnam Nuke Deal Will Likely Allow Enrichment," The Huffington Post, 7 August 2010, www.huffingtonpost.com; Jay Solomon, "U.S., Hanoi in Nuclear Talks," The Wall Street Journal, 3 August 2010, http://online.wsj.com.
[23] Miles A. Pomper and Jessica C. Varnum, "Future of Enrichment 'Gold Standard' in Doubt After US-Vietnam Nuclear Deal," World Politics Review, October 21, 2013, www.worldpoliticsreview.com.
[24] Thomas Moore, “The US-Taiwan 123 Agreement: An Asian Nuclear Pivot Away from Congress,” Arms Control Wonk, 8 January 2014, armcontrolwonk.com.
[25] "NWT Uranium Corp. Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Vietnam Atomic Energy Institute," Reuters, 7 September 2010, www.reuters.com.
[26] Toko Sekiguchi, "Japan, Vietnam to Move Forward on Nuclear Deal," The Wall Street Journal, 31 October 2011, http://online.wsj.com; "Nuclear Power in Vietnam," World Nuclear Association, January 2012, www.world-nuclear.org.
[27] H.E. Ambassador Ha Huy Thong, "The Second Special Session of the Conference of the State Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention," 7-18 April 2008, www.opcw.org.
[28] William A. Buckingham, Jr., Operation Ranch Hand: The Air Force and Herbicides in Southeast Asia 1961-1971 (Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, 1982), www.afhso.af.mil.
[29] "Chemical Weapon as Defined by the CWC," Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, www.opcw.org.
[30] Thomas Fuller, "4 Decades on, U.S. Starts Cleanup of Agent Orange in Vietnam," The New York Times, 9 August 2012, www.nytimes.com.
[31] Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, "Status of Participation in the Chemical Weapons Convention At 21 May 2009," www.opcw.org.
[32] United States Agency for International Development, “Environmental Remediation: Project Timeline,” 5 December 2013, www.usaid.gov.
[33] Government of Vietnam, "Decree No. 100/2005/ND-CP of August 3, 2005, on the Implementation of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction," 3 August 2005, www.dncustoms.gov.vn.
[34] H.E. Ambassador Ha Huy Thong, "The Second Special Session of the Conference of the State Parties to Review the Operation of the Chemical Weapons Convention," 7-18 April 2008, www.opcw.org.
[35] Tran Ngo Thi Minh Tam, Technical Efficiency of The Vietnam's Manufacture of Chemical and Chemical Products: A Dual Approach, Working Paper Series No. 2007/17 (Hanoi: DEPOCEN, 2004).
[36] Tran Ngo Thi Minh Tam, Technical Efficiency of The Vietnam's Manufacture of Chemical and Chemical Products: A Dual Approach, Working Paper Series No. 2007/17 (Hanoi: DEPOCEN, 2004).
[37] CNS interview with Vinachemia officials, March 2011, Hanoi, Vietnam. The Vietnam Chemicals Agency (Vinachemia) is under the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
[38] The Australia Group, "Australia Group Participants," www.australiagroup.net; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, SIPRI Yearbook 2013: Armaments, Disarmament and International Security (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 448-449.
[39] The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, "Status of the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention," www.opbw.org.
[40] Jonathan B. Tucker, "The ‘Yellow Rain' Controversy: Lessons for Arms Control Compliance," Nonproliferation Review, Spring 2001, pp. 25-42.
[41]  Jonathan B. Tucker, "Conflicting Evidence Revives "Yellow Rain" Controversy," CNS Research Story of the Week, 5 August 2002, www.nonproliferation.org.
[42] Eliot Marshall, "Bugs in the Yellow Rain Theory," Science, 24 June 1983, pp. 1356-1358.
[43] Jonathan B. Tucker, "Conflicting Evidence Revives "Yellow Rain" Controversy," CNS Research Story of the Week, 5 August 2002, www.nonproliferation.org.
[44] Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, "Nghị quyết số 18/NQ-CP về việc phát triển công nghệ sinh học ở Việt Nam đến năm 2010 [Resolution No. 18 NQ/CP on Development of Biotechnology in Vietnam to 2010]," 11 March 1994, via: www.thuvienphapluat.vn.
[45] Central Intelligence Agency, "The World Factbook: Vietnam," 8 February 2012, www.cia.gov; Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, "Quyết định số: 212 /2005/QĐ-TTg về việc ban hành Quy chế quản lý an toàn sinh học đối với các biến đổi gen; sản phẩm, hàng hóa có nguồn gốc từ sinh vật biến đổi gen [Decision No. 212/2005/QD-TTg on Promulgating the Regulation on Management of Biological Safety of Genetically Modified Organisms; Products and Goods Originating from Genetically Modified Organisms]," 26 August 2005, www.monre.gov.vn.
[46] Speech of Dr. Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development of Vietnam, Workshop on "Development of an Expert Teaching Team for Risk Assessment and Management of Non-Target and Biodiversity Impacts of GM Crops," Nha Trang, 22 May 2007.
[47] Speech of Dr. Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development of Vietnam, Workshop on "Development of an Expert Teaching Team for Risk Assessment and Management of Non-Target and Biodiversity Impacts of GM Crops," Nha Trang, 22 May 2007; Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The National Action Plan to 2010 for Implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, October 2004.
[48] Speech of Dr. Bui Ba Bong, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development of Vietnam, Workshop on "Development of an Expert Teaching Team for Risk Assessment and Management of Non-Target and Biodiversity Impacts of GM Crops," Nha Trang, 22 May 2007; Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, The National Action Plan to 2010 for Implementation of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, October 2004.
[49] United Nations, "Vietnam's Country Report on the Implementation of Resolution 1540 (2004) of the United Nations Security Council," www.un.org.
[50] The Australia Group, "Australia Group Participants," www.australiagroup.net; Convention on Biological Diversity, "Parties to the Protocol and signature and ratification of the Supplementary Protocol," http://bch.cbd.int.
[51] Carlyle A. Thayer, "Vietnam People's Army: Development and Modernization," Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, August 2009, www.american.edu.
[52] Greg Torode, "Hanoi Sends Message with Military Calendar," South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), 12 January 2011, www.scmp.com.
[53] "Vietnam's State-of-the-art Missile System," Tuoi Tre News, 20 June 2011, http://tuoitrenews.vn.
[54] “Vietnam Navy Receives First Russian-Made Submarine,” Thanh Nien News, 15 January 2014, www.thanhniennews.com.
[55] Duncan Lennox, ed., "Country Inventories – In Service," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue Forty-eight, January 2008, p. 25.
[56] Sandeep Dikshit, "India Offers $100-m Credit Line to Vietnam," The Hindu, 28 July 2013, www.thehindu.com.
[57] Duncan Lennox, ed., "Offensive Weapons Tables," Jane's Strategic Weapon Systems, Issue Forty-eight, January 2008, pp. 527-537.
[58] Missile Technology Control Regime, "MTCR Partners," www.mtcr.info; Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies, "Participating States," www.wassenaar.org.

CNS logo

This material is produced independently for NTI by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of and has not been independently verified by NTI or its directors, officers, employees, or agents.

Get the Facts on Vietnam

  • Negotiating a 123 Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with the United States
  • Plans to build ten nuclear power plants with foreign assistance
  • Working to develop more robust strategic trade controls