United States Submarine Capabilities
Overview of the United States' submarine capabilities and import-export behavior.
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.
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 initialed a 123 agreement with the intent to establish the legal framework for nuclear commerce between the United States and Vietnam; the formal 123 agreement was signed on 6 May 2014. 18 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 As of October 2014, the US-Vietnam nuclear cooperation agreement has gone into effect and will last 30 years unless it is renewed. Separate from the agreement, Vietnam signed a nonbinding memorandum stating that Hanoi does not intend to seek enrichment and reprocessing capabilities. 25
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. 26 The Vietnamese government signed an MOU with NWT Uranium Corporation of Canada to conduct exploration and assessment of these areas. 27 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. 28
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. 29 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. 30 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. 31 The issue remains controversial today. 32
The Vietnamese government has since 1994 identified biotechnology as a national development priority. 33 Agriculture accounts for roughly 20% of Vietnam’s GDP, and the Vietnamese government has actively pursued capacity-building in agricultural biotechnology. 34 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. 35 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. 36 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. 37 In 2006, the Ministry of Health of Vietnam issued two circulars guiding the import of medical and biological products. 38 Vietnam is not a participant in the Australia Group, but is a party to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. 39
According to a compilation of UN Register of Conventional Arms reports, Vietnam imported two S300 PMU1 air defense batteries (12 launchers), and sixty two S-300 missiles, a long-range surface-to-air missile (SAM) system produced by NPO Almaz [now Almaz-Antey]. 40 In 2011, the purchase was confirmed when Vietnam leaked images of the S-300 PMU1 in a military calendar. 41 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.” 42 Vietnam also deploys 3M-54 Klub submerged launched cruise missiles for its Kilo class submarines. 43 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. 44 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. 45
Hanoi is not believed to have an indigenous ballistic missile manufacturing capability. 46 Vietnam is not a member of the MTCR or the Wassenaar Arrangement, as it is not a significant producer of missile-related technology. 47
Vietnam cites its historical conflict with the United States as its reason for supporting the universal elimination of chemical weapons (CW). 48 During Operation Ranch Hand, from 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used more than 18 million gallons of herbicide in Vietnam. 49 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. 50 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. 51 The cleanup program, lead by USAID, will cost $43 million over four years and the government is considering cleanup efforts at other sites. 52
Vietnam signed the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in 1993 and ratified it in 1998. 53 In 2005, Vietnam issued a decree that implemented the CWC. 54 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. 55
Vietnam’s chemical industry, which is composed primarily of non-state sector establishments, accounts for only a small percentage of Vietnam’s total industry. 56 Although Vietnam’s chemical enterprises depend upon outdated infrastructure and are relatively inefficient, they are capable of producing fertilizers, pesticides and petrochemicals. 57 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. 58 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. 59
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Overview of the United States' submarine capabilities and import-export behavior.
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