Vietnam says no to foreign military base on its soil

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc reviews navy soldiers' honour guard during a welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, September 12, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam said on Thursday it would not allow other countries to set up military bases there, just days after Russia said it was considering reopening Soviet-era bases in Vietnam and Cuba.

Russian news agencies last week quoted a Russian deputy defense minister as saying Russia was considering plans to restore the bases that had served as pivots for Soviet global military power during the Cold War.

“Vietnam’s consistent policy is not to engage a military ally or engage with any country to oppose a third country,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh told a news briefing.

“We will also not allow any other countries to set up a military base in Vietnam.”

While pursuing a neutral foreign policy to befriend many countries and allowing port calls by foreign warships, Vietnam still bars any permanent presence by foreign military forces.

Russia, which inherits a long relationship with Vietnam, withdrew from the deepwater Cam Ranh naval base in the early 2000s as part of its drawing down of military presence around the world after the demise of the Soviet Union.

Cam Ranh is the jewel in the crown of Vietnam’s military, with an air base once used by the U.S. and Soviet forces and a deep water bay home to its modern, Russian-built submarines.

Visits by foreign ships are rare and usually restricted to maintenance. U.S., Japanese and French warships have recently made port calls at Cam Ranh.

Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Ho Binh Minh