Phung Quang Thanh told the Dan Tri newspaper on the sidelines of the 11th congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam that a budget of 52 trillion dong (2.6 billion dollars) for the military had been approved for this year.

Modernising some branches to enable them to protect the country in "new situations" was a priority, Thanh said, without elaborating.

Priority fields were the navy, air force, anti-aircraft units, electronic and technical reconnaissance, the report said.

Vietnam is facing a more aggressive attitude from China relating to its territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Over the past year, Chinese forces have repeatedly seized Vietnamese fishing boats near the Paracel islands, which are claimed by both countries. The Paracels belonged to the former South Vietnam until China seized them in 1974.

Thanh said the Communist Party and the government planned to build up the Vietnam People's Army and have both regular and elite forces by mid-century.

Deutsche Presse Agentur - January 18, 2011