Is Vietnam diverting its civilian know-how to create an indigenous nuclear weapons program? Not yet, says the CSS’ Oliver Thränert, but increased tensions or overt conflict with China could lead Hanoi to develop its own nuclear deterrent.
By Oliver Thränert for Center for Security Studies (CSS)
ISN – For many years, the international nuclear non-proliferation regime has been in deep crisis. This became apparent most recently when the ninth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in May 2015 ended without a common final document. At the same time, a number of threshold countries are planning to begin using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In a time of increasing international tensions, some of them might build on know-how acquired through their civilian programs to safeguard their national security needs through a nuclear weapons program in the near future. Vietnam is an interesting case in point. Irrespective of certain delays in the development of its peaceful nuclear program, the country has progressed quite far. At the same time, it is engaged in an increasingly precarious conflict with its main neighbor, nuclear-armed China. Currently, there are no signs of a Vietnamese nuclear weapons program. In the framework of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, the country is a model of transparency and cooperation. But it is uncertain whether this will always remain the case. On the contrary, Hanoi might change its policy if the conflict with China should come to a head while the NPT continues to be weakened.
Vietnam’s strategic situation
Vietnam might complete its first nuclear reactor within a few years, ahead of ambitious neighbors such as Indonesia or Malaysia. The country’s main motivations are its growing energy requirements and the desire to diversify its energy sources. Considerations of prestige may also be a factor. As a threshold nation, Vietnam aims to achieve the same level as Asia’s developed nations. With a view to China, Hanoi probably also wishes to demonstrate the high level of global confidence that the country enjoys in sensitive matters of security policy. Tiếp tục đọc “Nonproliferation and Nuclear Energy: The Case of Vietnam”