HO CHI MINH CITY (Kyodo) -- Vietnam last year abandoned plans to build the country's first nuclear power plants with Japanese and Russian assistance due to heightened concern over nuclear energy in the wake of events such as the Fukushima nuclear disaster, according to former President Truong Tan Sang.
In an interview in Ho Chi Minh City on Thursday, Sang, 68, said, "The situation in the world had changed. Due to the fluctuations of the world situation, the Vietnamese people were very worried, especially the people in the area where the nuclear power plants were to be located. They had reactions. Therefore, we had to temporarily halt (the plans)."
The interview was his first with a foreign news media outlet since stepping down from power in April last year.
In scrapping the plans to build two multi-billion-dollar nuclear power plants in November last year, the government cited the country's tight financial situation, saying safety was not an issue.
On Vietnam's territorial conflict with China in the South China Sea, Sang said his country welcomes the concerns of countries in and outside the region to contribute to ensuring peace and stability in the South China Sea.
"We protect our interests on the basis of international law, and at the same time we also respect the interests of the countries concerned on the basis of international law," he said.
"Japan is very close to Vietnam's view," he added, expressing hope for Tokyo's continued support for its stance in the dispute.
On the economic front, he praised Japan for its active promotion of globalization, especially after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement signed by 12 nations including Vietnam and Japan.
"(Japanese Prime Minister) Shinzo Abe was one of the first leaders to promote and connect remaining countries together. As a result, at the APEC meeting in Danang recently, the TPP 11 meeting successfully took place," he said.
On bilateral relations, he said the relationship between the two countries is "very good. There is no obstacle."
"The extensive strategic partnership in all areas has been strengthened, bringing clear benefits," he said.
By taking advantage of Japan's advanced technology and Vietnam's abundant natural and human resources, he expressed hope for greater cooperation in areas such as high-quality infrastructure, high-tech agriculture and renewable energy.
"Vietnam learns from the experience and realities of countries around the world to perfect the organizational model of our political system," he said, indicating the necessity of reform of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party and government based on global trends and the domestic situation.