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Vietnam (officially: Socialist Republic of Vietnam) is a socialist state located in Southeast Asia. The country shares land borders with Cambodia, China, and Laos. It is one of the few socialist nations left internationally and is a vital ally to the Soviet Union in the region.
Distant Past to the Colonial Era
In the distant past, Vietnam was ruled by several dynasties that waged border wars with Siam, Cambodia, and the ancient dynasties of ancient China.
During the Colonial Era, Vietnam, along with Cambodia and Laos, became part of French Indochina - an overseas colony of France in Southeast Asia.
World War II and Independence
Upon the Fall of France in 1940, the Empire of Japan occupied the colony up until its defeat in 1945. The French immediately reclaimed control of their colony after World War II, however, local citizens began to take up arms against the French. This resulted in the independence of Vietnam in 1954 after the Viet Minh's victory (led by Ho Chi Minh) over the French at Dien Bien Phu. At the signing of the 1954 Geneva conference, the country was to be split similar to the Korean peninsula: the North would be under a socialist government while the South would be under a democratic government.
The Indochina Wars (1955-1989)
Dispute on whoever would rule the country led to the Vietnam War erupting in 1955. South Vietnam (officially the Republic of Vietnam) was backed by the United States in the late 50s to the early 60s before sending combat troops to the ground in 1965. Similarly, North Vietnam was backed by communist countries such as the Soviet Union, China (PRC), North Korea, East Germany, and Cuba. The United States was militarily backed by their local allies in the region: Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand. Despite the heavy support given to the Republic of Vietnam throughout the war, the U.S. was forced to pullout in 1973 due to massive losses incurred - both in manpower, resources, and funds - as well as the unpopularity of the war among Americans at home. On April 30, 1975, North Vietnam successfully reunited the nation by capturing the capital of Saigon. Countless South Vietnamese refugees would find refuge in the Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the United States, Australia, and Europe.
In December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and managed dispose the Khmer Rouge that conducted border raids into Vietnam since 1977. This drew the ire of China, which launched an invasion of North Vietnam in February 1979. However, the Chinese were not able to succeed in their goal of occupying Hanoi and pulled out a month later. Majority of the Khmer Rouge fighters escaped to nearby Thailand. This resulted in Vietnam staging border raids into Thailand and clashing with the Royal Thai Army. Thailand was used as a training ground by the Khmer People's National Liberation Front (KPNLF), an anti-communist political party that opposed the Vietnamese occupation. They were supported by the United States, the United Kingdom, Thailand, and China. Vietnam would find ironically itself in a Vietnam War-like state in Cambodia, before withdrawing on September 26, 1989 - at the time when the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe experienced a wave of pro-democracy protests. Prior to withdrawal from Cambodia, Vietnam and China clashed over the Johnson South Reef in the South China Sea, resulting in Chinese occupation of the island.
The country reformed it's authoritarian policies to a more democratic government in 1991, inspired by the signing of the New Union Treaty of the USSR.
Vietnam became a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 28, 1995. Years before, the Socialist Republic reestablished diplomatic relations with majority of the ASEAN states. This brought on economic growth to the country as it opened to trade. Diplomatic relations with the United States were restored on July 11, 1995, announced by U.S. President Bill Clinton. The U.S. Liason Office in Hanoi was upgraded to embassy status a month later. Clinton himself would visit the country in 2000.
Vietnam today remains an ally of the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union continues to dock and rotate ships at the Port of Cam Ranh Bay, similar to how the U.S. Navy does in nearby Philippines. In 2005, the USS Curtis Wilbur became the first U.S. Navy ship to dock in Vietnam since the Vietnam War. The country has voiced support to both the United States and the Soviet Union in the War on Terror. Vietnam continues to be a growing economic hub in Southeast Asia.
Tensions with China escalated in May 2014, when a Chinese Coast Guard ship rammed a Vietnamese trawler. This resulted in anti-China protests around the country which resulted in the death of three Chinese nationals. The country has also started modernizing it's military by purchasing weapons and equipment from other countries as well as deepening ties with neighboring states that are bullied by China.
The Vietnam People's Armed Forces (VPAF) is the official armed forces of the country under the administration of the Ministry of Defense. This consists of the Vietnam People's Army, the Vietnam People's Public Security and theVietnam Civil Defense Force. The Vietnam People's Army (VPA) is the official name for the active military services of Vietnam, and is subdivided into the Vietnam People's Ground Forces, the Vietnam People's Navy, the Vietnam People's Air Force, the Vietnam Border Defense Force and the Vietnam Coast Guard.
During the Cold War, the Soviet Union was the main supplier of military hardware to North Vietnam. After the latter's victory in the war, it remained the main supplier of equipment to Vietnam. The United States had been the primary supplier of equipment to South Vietnam; much of the equipment abandoned by the United States Army and Army of the Republic of Vietnam came under control of the re-unified Viet Nam's government. The PAVN captured large numbers of South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) weapons on 30 April 1975 after Saigon was merged (integrated). The 1979 war with China has added captured Chinese weapons and vehicles to Vietnam's arsenal. Because of this, Soviet, Chinese, and American military hardware is seen in the inventories, though the VPAF prefers to use the Soviet versions. Majority of U.S.-made equipment that was left over from the Vietnam War (ex. M16 assault rifles, M113 APCs, M101 Howtizers, UH-1 Hueys) is stored for reserve forces.
In present times, the VPA usually purchases equipment from the Soviet Union and Israel. The AKM and the AK series of assault rifles still remains the standard-issue rifle among the armed forces. However, these are slowly being phased out in favor of the Israeli TAR-21 and Galil ACE, and the Belgian FN FNC. In 2016, the United States officially lifted the arms embargo imposed since the end of the Vietnam War. Analysts predict the Vietnam may purchase American-made military hardware for its modernization.
Vietnam maintains several diplomatic relations with countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. It is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Vietnam and the Soviet Union continue to be partners in the post-9/11 era. Currently, it is still a valuable ally to Soviet Union to counter China in the area. Vietnam supports both Soviet and American efforts against terrorist groups in the Middle East and Africa. It has also opened its ports for any Soviet, American, and European ships traveling to the Middle East to fight in the War on Terror.
Relations with the United States have been great in past 20 years despite the infamous Vietnam War. Majority of the young Vietnamese population have forgotten about the war. Many Vietnamese have travelled in the U.S. to study or work. The U.S. on the other hand, may supply Vietnam with arms after lifting the arms embargo.
On the other hand, relations with China have gradually soured in recent years due to disputes in the South China Sea. China in recent years has been aggressive to its neighbors. This has resulted in joint exercise with the Philippines, another country bullied by China. While the Soviet Union has maintained it does not take sides in the dispute in similar position with the United States, it has asserted that all sides should solve the issue peacefully and adhere to "freedom of navigation." Vietnam recently congratulated the Philippines when it won the UN arbitration against China in July 2016.