Country Listing

Vietnam Table of Contents


The Legal-Constitutional Basis of the Military

The 1980 Constitution establishes the legal basis for PAVN in Section IV (Articles 50 through 52), titled Defense of the Socialist Homeland. Supervision of the armed forces is vested in the Council of State (see The System of Government , ch. 4). The Council of State, newly formed under the 1980 Constitution, assumes the equivalent authority of the previous National Assembly Standing Committee in that it can declare war and mobilize the country if the assembly is not in session. The Council chairman (Truong Chinh in 1987), according to the Constitution, concurrently chairs the National Defense Council (NDC)--retained from the 1959 constitution--and serves as commander in chief of PAVN. The latter function, however, is ceremonial. Under the Constitution, the role of the NDC is "to mobilize all forces and potentials of the country to defend the homeland." It thus is made explicitly responsible for what is the National Assembly's implicit duty, mobilization in the broadest sense. By comparison with the previous constitution, the 1980 document gives the National Assembly (see Glossary) legal authority with respect to PAVN that is perhaps broader but is less clearly defined. For example, "The National Assembly has the duty and power . . . to decide on matters of war and peace," but its chairmanship (under Nguyen Huu Tho in 1987) is a merely nominal position.

The highest operational authority over PAVN is exercised by the Council of Ministers, equivalent to a cabinet, which is responsible for "organizing national defense activities and building the people's armed forces." In 1987 the chairman of the Council of Ministers was Premier Pham Van Dong.

Basic national defense policy is fixed by the NDC, then transmitted first to the Ministry of National Defense and second to the PAVN High Command. As is common throughout the Vietnam ruling apparat, there is a great deal of overlap because of "two hat" (or concurrent) assignments. The chairman of the NDC is the president of the State Council; the vice chairman is the prime minister. NDC members include the VCP secretary general, the chairman of the National Assembly Standing Committee, the PAVN chief of staff, the minister of national defense, the minister of foreign affairs, the minister of interior, and the chairman of the State Planning Commission. In time of war, the NDC acts as a supreme headquarters for mobilizational purposes and is vested with the authority to command all manpower and other resources in the country (see fig. 17).

Data as of December 1987