Chủ Nhật, 31 tháng 3, 2013

 Uncontrolled fishing in HCMC canals

Scenes of rampant fishing by large numbers of anglers can be seen every day along the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe and two other canals in Ho Chi Minh.
These days anyone coming to a section of the Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe canal near the Kieu Bridge can witness anglers using fishing rods each of which has as many as five hooks.
With such a method, an angler can catch a fish every two or three minutes.
N.V., an angler there, said that he could catch more fish than previously since he used the 5-hook pole and that there was a time when he could gain a full bucket of fish only in an hour.
Tran Van Doan, 53, a resident in Ward 1, Binh Thanh District, told Tuoi Tre that that he was previously very happy seeing shoals of fish swim in the canal as it has been nicknamed “the dead canal” due to serious pollution there.
In low tide periods, many people even waded into the canal and used nets to catch fish.  
Competent agencies should take action to prevent such fishing since it can kill fish en masse, Doan and many other locals said.
The same situation is also seen in the Tau Hu-Ben Nghe canal that is located along Vo Van Kiet Street, and Te canal that link Districts 4 and 7.
No ban issued
Tran The Ky, deputy director of the HCMC Department of Transport, said the fact that fish are appearing in large numbers in the canal is a good sign that proves the pollution there has been reduced considerably.
Fishing for fun or relaxation is not a problem, but using nets to catch fish in the canal is unacceptable since it will lead to a shortage of fish in a short time, Ky said.
However, the government has yet to issue any ban on the practice, but only bans fishing using electricity. Therefore, the department will ask the city government to issue a ban on fishing using the net, Ky said.
Under a regulation of the HCMC People’s Committee, people using nets to catch fish on canals that are used as waterways will be fined as it causes danger to waterway traffic, Nguyen Bat Han, deputy chief inspector of the department, said.
Doi, Te, Tau Hu and Ben Nghe are waterway canals, while others like Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe and Tan Hoa-Lo Gom are considered as drainage channels.   

Sugar firms allowed exporting surplus inventory

The Ministry of Industry and Trade has allowed domestic companies to export sugar with large volumes in an attempt to reduce the record high inventories of 450,000 tonnes.

Since the beginning of the 2012-13 sugar crop, the Sugar and Sugar Cane Association has predicted that there would be a sugar surplus.

Sugar is one of the country’s price-stablised commodities, so its exports are only allowed when there is a surplus, according to Ha Huu Phai, head of the Association’s Hanoi branch.

The country needs about 1.2-1.3 million tonnes of sugar a year.

The association estimates that the sugar output in the 2012-2013 crop will reach 1.4 million tonnes.

In addition, stocked sugar from last year as well as imported and smuggled sugar are available.

About 300,000-400,000 tonnes of sugar are smuggled into Vietnam from the southwest border a year, according to the association.

The country now has 40 sugar mills producing the 2012-13 sugar crop.

The sugar inventories have increased by about 100,000 tonnes a month since the beginning of the crop which normally begins in September.

To reduce inventories, some sugar mills have cut price, but sales continue to be low because of low demand.

Some sugar mills have also exported small quantities of sugar through unofficial channels.

To reduce sugar inventories in the long term, smuggled sugar must be strictly controlled and sales of legal sugar must increase, according to Phai.

The sugar industry needs to improve its competitiveness on price and quality, especially against smuggled sugar, he said.-

VPBank wins seventh Straight Through Process Award

The Vietnam Prosperity Commercial Bank (VPBank) has received the Straight Through Process (STP) Award for 2012 from the Bank of New York Mellon (BNY Mellon) for the seventh consecutive year.

The honour was presented to the VPBank’s representative at a ceremony in Hanoi on March 27, in recognition of its outstanding international payment services.

Last year, the bank made efforts in ensuring all its transactions to be processed automatically at BNY Mellon in an accurate and quick manner.

The annual award proves the operational accuracy by VPBank operators in general and its international payment officers in particular.

With the prestigious award, the quality of VPBank international payment services as well as the institution’s operation has been recognised by the international community, a VPBank executive said.

At the same time, the relationship between VPBank and BNY Mellon will be elevated to a new level as both companies seek to achieve their optimum goals of satisfying customers with the best possible payment services, he noted.

The leader took the occasion to brief on the bank’s plan for 2013 that will focus on improving its service quality, increasing added values and excelling conveniences to reach the international standard level.

Last year, VPBank won a host of awards, including the National Brand Award; the Vietnam Strong Brand, the Most Satisfactory Bank Services Award; the Award for the Best Agency in Outbound Growth, the Award for the Best in Network Growth and the Award for Highest Rate of Service Activation by Western Union, and the Straight Through Process award by Wells Fargo.

As a top world financial institution based in New York, BNY Mellon has a total asset of 25,000 billion USD. The 229-year bank has offices scattering in over 38 countries and 65 cities across the world.-

Latest American biomedical engineering research launched in Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City is poised to employ the latest American biomedical engineering research to make medical equipment.

American company National Instruments and the Biomedical Engineering Department of Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City last week announced a strategic collaboration to raise the standards of biomedical engineering education using the latest research and training tools.

“The announcement is the first step of our joint investment partnership. National Instruments selected the department because we share many similarities in what we want to do,” said Chandran Nair, managing director of National Instruments, Southeast Asia. 
The department, set up in 2009, is the first in Vietnam that offers a Biomedical Engineering degree and Master’s degrees.

Under the new partnership, the department, chaired by high profile Vietnamese American professor Vo Van Toi, former executive director of the US-based Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF), will leverage some of the world’s most advanced educational laboratory tools to accelerate studying and innovation.

Vietnam is a key market for National Instruments in Southeast Asia, said Nair. “We’re looking forward to expanding our partnerships here.”

Biomedical Engineering is a new applied science in the world that seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine by combining the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to advance healthcare treatment.

Toi said the partnership would support his department in research and development (R&D) of made-in-Vietnam medical tools.

“The partnership is beneficial to our faculty and students who can now access to advanced educational tools that help facilitate the utilisation of bio-sensors in the research and the design of new medical devices,” he said.

His department has just signed a deal with the Ho Chi Minh City Association of Medical Equipment Makers for R&D for medical devices.

Toi is a respected medical engineer on the global stage and from 2004 to 2007, he was a member of the Board of Directors of VEF, a U.S. federal agency established by Congress to bring the US and Vietnam closer through educational exchanges.

Vietnam, Chile enjoy over $600 mln in trade

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Chile reached a record in 2012 with a value of $606 million  or 24.5 per cent more than 2011, according to the Chile’s Export Promotion Agency (ProChile).

Footwear manufacturing at Hunex company in Da Nang. (Illustrative image, Source: VNA)

Statistics released by the agency showed that last year, Vietnam’s exports to Chile rose 26.9 per cent year-on-year to $189.8 million. Its major exports were footwear, garments and textiles, cement, frozen fish, coffee and rice

Meanwhile, the Southeast Asian country’s import value was $416.2 million, up 23.4 per cent year-on-year.

The two countries expect to witness higher trade revenue after their bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) takes into effect.

In 2011, bilateral trade between Vietnam and Chile reached more than $486 million, a year-on-year increase of 50 per cent.

Vinamilk to operate two new dairy plants

The Vietnam Dairy Products Joint Stock Company (Vinamilk) will put into operation two modern dairy plants in the southern province of Binh Duong late April, Chairwoman cum CEO of the Vinamilk Corporation Mai Kieu Lien has said.

Covering 20ha in the My Phuoc Industrial Zone, the first factory, which is fully automated, will turn out 400 million litres of milk annually in the first phase, equivalent to the capacity of Vinamilk’s nine operating plants. It will then double the output after the second phase.

Located in the Vietnam-Singapore industrial zone, the second, covering six ha, will produce 54,000 tonnes of powdered milk, four times the current figure.

Vinamilk posted export revenues of almost $180 million and contributed more than VND2.9 trillion to the State budget last year. It also sold more than 4 billion products the same year, the highest figure so far, and this figure is expected to reach VND26.5 trillion by the end of this year.

Limited VAT incentives for border gate traders

Value added tax (VAT) incentives for traders in border-gate economic zones (EZs) should be limited to prevent tax fraud and evasions, the Ministry of Finance proposed.

Many cases of taking advantage of the preferential policy for border-gate economic zones to get VAT tax refunds have been discovered. Multiple traders have brought domestic goods from elsewhere into non-tariff zones and then launched them into the local market again under the form of duty-free goods so that they receive a VAT refund.

Therefore, the finance ministry is seeking adjustments to the VAT preferential policy for border-gate EZs.

The ministry suggested goods produced and consumed in non-tariff areas, those imported from abroad into non-tariff zones or exported from such zones to foreign countries should be exempt from VAT.

As for domestic goods produced outside or in other functional areas in border EZs and brought into non-tariff areas, traders must make declarations and pay taxes on such items. However, if such items are brought there for export, they will enjoy zero VAT rate, provided they satisfy the requirements prescribed by the law on VAT, and pass the check before VAT refund.

Meanwhile, goods and services from non-tariff areas launched into other functional areas in border-gate EZs or into the domestic market will be subject to VAT.

This move is aimed at preventing VAT fraud and evasion, said the finance ministry in a draft decision on financial policy for border EZs.

In addition, the ministry proposed investors in border zones should enjoy export and import tax incentives. Raw materials and components imported to serve the production projects in border-gate EZs (except the projects for assembly of cars and motorbikes, air conditioners, refrigerators, and some other electronic items) should be given a five-year import tax exemption.

VietJetAir to fly to Nha Trang, Buon Ma Thuot

VietJetAir will open two new air routes, Hanoi-Nha Trang and HCMC-Buon Ma Thuot, in summer to meet the increasing transport demand.

The carrier will add over 1,600 flights, equivalent to 300,000 seats, from May 20 to August 31 due to the high demand in this summer travel season.

The Hanoi-Danang air service will have an additional three flights per day. Meanwhile, there will be two additional flights per day on each of the HCMC-Phu Quoc, HCMC-Vinh and HCMC-Haiphong air routes.

Besides, with the new routes, the number of flights will be increased by two per day for Hanoi-Nha Trang and by one for HCMC-Buon Ma Thuot. The carrier will also announce soon the number of flights to Dalat, Haiphong and Bangkok.

Desmond Lin, Business Development Manager of VietJetAir, said that in order to increase the flight frequency in the coming time, VietJetAir will expand its fleet and improve utility services.

* Jerstar Pacific on Monday started to operate its new domestic routes, Buon Ma Thuot-Vinh and HCMC-Buon Ma Thuot.

The 50-minute HCMC-Buon Ma Thuot air service is operated with a frequency of five weekly flights on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Meanwhile, for the 85-minute Buon Ma Thuot-Vinh air service, there are three flights per week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Resorts suffering from Ke Ga Port to be compensated

Those resorts whose assets are damaged by the construction of the now-defunct Ke Ga Port will be compensated at 100% of their damages by Vietnam National Coal and Mineral Industries Group (Vinacomin).

Those assets whose utility value is less than 30% left will also receive compensations worth 100% of their value under an agreement between Vinacomin and Binh Thuan’s government.

The provincial government will renew investment certificates for the investors who want to continue or expand their resort projects after Vinacomin halted development of Ke Ga Port, said Nguyen Ngoc, vice chairman of Binh Thuan.

The province is forming a council in charge of evaluating damages of the affected resorts and then it will propose Vinacomin offer the project owners adequate compensations.

Twelve resorts suffered land withdrawals for construction of Ke Ga Port. Two of them were granted land use right by the State and the remaining ten rented land from the State, said Ngoc.

A project owner demands a compensation of VND3.9 billion for loss of investment opportunity since the project was forced to stop in 2008, while another seeks VND25.5-billion compensation for gold price drop when he made investment. Such claims are not provided in any legal document, so Binh Thuan has to report to the central authorities.

In a complaint sent to Binh Thuan’s government in mid-2012, owners of the 12 resorts estimated their total damages at over VND800 billion.

In April 2008, when the province called a halt to these 12 resorts and revoked their lands, one project was operational (Blue World), one was being carried out (Duc Hanh), and the rest had some components under construction.

17 extra HCMC-Nha Trang trains for holidays

To meet the increasing transport demand for Liberation Day (April 30) and May Day (May 1), Saigon Railway Passenger Transport Company is putting on 17 extra trains from HCMC to Nha Trang in the period.

Thai Van Truyen, deputy director of Saigon Railway Station, said in addition to two trains running between HCMC and Nha Trang daily, there will be an additional six trains from HCMC to Nha Trang on April 26 and three others on April 27. Meanwhile, the number of trains departing from Nha Trang for HCMC will increase by five on April 30 and by three on May 1.

With the Hung Kings’ death anniversary (April 19), the number of HCMC-Nha Trang trains will be increased by four, with two more trains departing for Nha Trang on April 18 and two others departing for HCMC on April 21.

All trains will depart from HCMC at night and arrive in Nha Trang in the early morning.
Where will you go, Vietnamese products?
VietNamNet Bridge – The recent decision of the US to impose anti-dumping duties on Vietnamese catfish makes pessimists worry: will the liberalization of trade be washed away?
catfish, trade liberlization, free trade, wto, vietnam, anti-dumping 
Catfish is the latest product in the list of items of Vietnam that are imposed with anti-dumping and subsidies outside the territory of Vietnam. The list includes the products that are extremely "gentle," such as onions, bitter melons and basil in the EU market; lighter in Poland; tire and garlic in Brazil; PE bags, hangers, earrings, cold rolled steel, bicycles in the EU and the USA, etc.

According to the Competition Management Agency, from 1995 to 2012 Vietnam’s export items were involved in 62 commercial-defense investigations, including 40 cases of anti-dumping investigation.

Especially when the global economic situation is in crisis, the number of "investigation" is on the rise. In 2012, there were 10 cases of "anti-dumping and subsidies investigation" conducted on Vietnam's export goods. In early 2013, Vietnam’s catfish was imposed with the anti-dumping duties.

The anti-dumping and anti-subsidy lawsuits are essentially the double taxes on Vietnamese export goods, which have caused enormous consequences. Because of these lawsuits, many Vietnamese enterprises have been hardly hit.

In Vietnam's main export markets such as the U.S., Canada, the EU ... the lawsuits against Vietnamese goods are more and more and that is the risk for Vietnamese exporters. Many companies went bankrupt because of this.

Where's the "free trade?"

Experts often say that the world has two UNs, a UN of Mr. Ban-ki-moon, which is specialized in political issues, and the other is the WTO (World Trade Organization) US, which is in charge of commercial issues.

The WTO came into being in 1995 to replace the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, which was formed in 1947, with the highest goal towards global trade liberalization. The WTO has 157 members, not less than that of the UN of Mr. Ban-ki-mon.

There was a time when people thought they "had touched" the dream of trade liberalization. But the road is increasingly tough and has more obstacles because of the specter of protectionism.

The U.S. and many European countries are the "co-authors" of the idea of trade liberalization. But there is a "full of logical paradox" is that if not properly decoding the nature of it, a country will be very difficult to access to modern trade and will suffer from lawsuits like Vietnam.

Christina R.Sevilla, deputy U.S. trade representative said: "The fact is clear -- free trade creates wealth for the society, meets the needs and promotes economic development."

On the 10th anniversary of the WTO, dated 14/9/2005, U.S. President George W. Bush solemnly declared: "We will try our best to help difficult regions get rid of the burden of poverty. But it is not only this time -- it is a consistent, long-term task. The surest way to reach richness and prosperity is to promote free trade."

The US tasted the bitter fruit of protectionism, so it soon enlightened about trade liberalization. However, even in America, the battle between protectionism and trade liberalization takes place harsh and drastic.

US Trade Deputy Representative Christina R.Sevila admitted: "The US has concluded this lesson after applying the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in the 1930s. Since then, the US has been a pioneer in opening up the international market ... However, it needs more effort to really exploit the benefits of open trade in the agricultural sector ... The World Bank's research show that there will be tens of millions more people escaping from poverty through trade improvement."

Identifying protectionism

During the Great Depression of the 1920s and 1930s, the protectionism rose in many countries, especially in the US. Republican candidate Herbert Hoover in the election campaign committed to increase tariffs on imported agricultural products to support farmers after commodity prices continued to decline. When the bill was presented to the Congress, interest groups of the industry added more tariff protection measures.

The issuance of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act in June 1930 made the tax rate of US to the highest level in the history. Many affected countries immediately retaliated, by erecting similar tariff barriers. Consequently, global trade seriously declined. In 1934, the world trade turnover was only equal to three quarters of 1929, before the Smoot-Harley Act was issued. According to analysts, the consequences of the economic downturn were the seed for the World War 2 six years later.

However, this result did not prevent the protectionism. Global trade negotiations stopped down the extreme of the protectionism but could not overwhelmed it. The textile and auto industries are the two most obvious evidences of protectionism in the US.

From the '50s, developing countries began to compete with manufacturers in Europe and the United States, which led to the issuance of the multilateral multi-fiber agreement in 1974 with very high tax rates and import quotas on each item. According to the WB, because of the protection of the textile industry, American consumers lost $20 billion annually due to higher prices for clothing. To keep job for a textile worker in the U.S. or Europe, 35 workers in developing countries lose their jobs!

President R. Reagan passionately advocated and supported free trade but he was the one imposing the harshest quotas on Japanese cars in the U.S. in 1981. The "culprits" behind this decision were the three giant auto manufacturers - Ford, Chrysler and General Motors. They argued that the auto industry created a lot of jobs in the US. In fact, the three auto producers were based in the states of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois, which have great influence on American politics over the election of the Congress and the President.
Duy Chien 
 PVEP, Vietsovpetro sign oil and gas contract
The Vietnam Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam) has signed a production-sharing contract (PSC) for Block 42 on the continental shelf waters of Vietnam with a consortium of contractors including PetroVietnam Exploration and Production Corporation (PVEP) and the Russia-Vietnam oil and gas joint venture, Vietsovpetro. 
Under the agreement, which was signed in Hanoi on March 29, PVEP will work as the manager for the project and will have a 51 percent share. 
Covering an area of 4,, Block 42 in Phuc Quoc basin is seen as a lot holding considerable oil and gas potentials. 
Speaking at the function, PetroVietnam General Director Do Van Hau said the contract manifests the close and effective cooperation between PetroVietnam and Russia’s Zarubezhneft through Vietsovpetro joint venture. 
The PSC is the fifth contract that Vietsovpetro has engaged in Vietnam, following others in Bach Ho (White Tiger), Rong (Dragon) and Doi Moi oil fields. 
Zarubezhneft General Director Sergei Kudryashov described Vietsovpetro as a bridge for the solidarity and friendship between Vietnam and Russia, while the newly-signed PSC further consolidates the effectively friendly and cooperative relations between the two nations. 
The exploration and exploitation of Block 42 are expected to open new prospects for Phu Quoc basin and attract more stable investment in the area, contributing to the Vietnamese oil and gas sector’s development strategy and the national energy security programme.
Source: VNA/ VOV
 Big savers at Bank of Cyprus may lose up to 60%
 Account holders at the largest bank in Cyprus could lose up to 60 percent of their savings as part of a bailout plan agreed to with eurozone members.

The central bank of Cyprus announced the measure on Saturday. The statement said 37.5 percent of deposits over 100,000 euros at the Bank of Cyprus will be converted into shares to increase the bank's capital.

Big depositors may also lose up to 22.5 percent more, depending on what experts determine is necessary to prop up the bank's reserves. The experts are to assess the assets held by the Bank of Cyprus within 90 days.

The remaining 40 percent of the large deposits will not be used for recapitalization. But local media report that the savings are likely to be frozen until the bank's restructuring gets on track.

Cyprus is required to use a percentage of the deposits at its leading banks as part of the European bailout plan worth 10 billion euros, or 13 billion dollars.

The second largest Laiki Bank is being shut down according to the rescue plan. Account holders with deposits exceeding 100,000 euros will also be asked to take major losses to help pay for the bailout.
 Ha Noi street food: cooking up a storm
Food frenzy: Some travel companies in Ha Noi have started to organise culinary tours for international visitors, but more needs to be done. - VNA/VNS Photo Huy Hung
With its dazzling array of dishes and flavours, Ha Noi's cuisine is considered to be one of the main strengths of its tourism sector. But while most tourists only currently get the chance to eat the food, offering them opportunities to experience a real culinary tour is an essential step towards putting the city on the map as a genuine food destination. Xuan Cuong and Trung Hieu report.
Like many tourists who travel to Ha Noi, Sue Slatter was first drawn by the city's formidable reputation for food.
Though the cooking teacher from California admits there were other factors, she says it was the chance to get knee-deep in street food and discover secrets of the increasingly-popular Vietnamese cuisine that led her on a pilgrimage to the home of pho.
"I had been told that we would have to queue up for the very best pho," she says outside a bustling Ha Noi street joint. "So now I'm really curious to see if it will be worth the wait."
Twenty minutes later, Slatter was a convert.
"I have to concur, Ha Noi pho really is delightful. In the United States we also have pho, but its taste is completely different," she said.
"The noodles in the US are too thick, whereas here they are thin and so much more tasty. Ha Noi pho is charming and delicious." 
Spoilt for choice: A Vietnamese chef guides a foreign visitor to prepare traditional Vietnamese food during a culinary tour. VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam
David Jackman, a chef from the US who was also in the tourist group, said: "This is my second time eating Vietnamese pho. The noodles are sumptuous and the cook mixed the spices perfectly to give the dish its own unique flavour.
"There's also a good range of condiments on the table so I can adjust the dish to suit my own tastes.
"The atmosphere at the restaurant is great and everyone sat close to each other, creating a friendly, communal vibe."
After enjoying Viet Nam's traditional dish, the tourists visited a noodle workshop in the Old Quarter.
They were very surprised to learn that in the heart of the crowded old town sits a modern processing facility supplying noodles to many of the city's shops.
The workshop owner said: "Many people know the formula for making noodles, but to get them thin and soft requires traditional know-how. In addition, we ensure food safety for consumers eschewing food additives." 
Major attraction: Street food is one of the strongest sectors of Vietnamese tourism. - VNA/VNS Photo Kim Phuong
A history of migration
Over centuries of practice, perfecting Ha Noi cuisine has become somewhat of an art form. According to culinary expert Nguyen Phuong Hai, who has made efforts to revive the city's traditional foods, Hanoian dishes were previously based around home-grown products which were locally sourced.
"The city also had a history of migration, therefore Ha Noi cuisine has always been enriched by food from other regions. That's why the dishes feature a real melange of flavours."
In other regions, each locality has its own traditional dish which is considered a staple. But in Ha Noi, eaters can choose from a long list of specialities.
Worth the wait: Tourists enjoy Vietnamese food at a festival held in Ha Noi. - VNA/VNS Photos Thanh Vu
As for pho, the city has many famous shops, each offering their own take on the dish, such as pho Bat Dan, pho Ly Quoc Su and pho Thin.
Along with pho, there is cha ca (fried fish) La Vong, banh cuon (steamed rolled rice pancake) Thanh Tri, com (green rice flakes) Vong, dau phu (tofu) Mo and many others.
Thus, Ha Noi culinary enthusiasts not only enjoy the food, but also the experience of shopping for ingredients and cooking.
Nguyen Xuan Quynh, CEO of Viet Nam Now Travel company, said: "Depending on the requirements of each tourist group, we will arrange culinary tours exploring the Ha Noi market and learning how to cook traditional food.
"As for the groups who are interested in the historical features of Ha Noi cuisine, we invite folk artisan Pham Thi Anh Tuyet to take them on an interactive trip through Hang Be market.
"For a number of the more sophisticated tours we let tourists experience travelling through the market by cyclo, introducing them to the old streets where many of these wonderful dishes were born."
From the tourists' perspective, the chance to gain insight from an experienced old hand is an invaluable addition to the tour.
Made Suryasa, an Indonesian culinary expert, said: "I feel very lucky to learn how to cook from a culinary artisan of Ha Noi. What impressed me most was the mixture of the spices, the combination of salty and sweet elements which blend the flavours together.
"It made me fall in love with Ha Noi cuisine and I'm going to practice what I've learned here because cooking is a real passion of mine."
For a long time, tour operators have been aware that, in order to attract international tourists, food is a vital part of the package.
Quynh added: "In my opinion, Ha Noi cuisine has a strong advantage to exploit, but we need investment and promotion to take full advantage."
From a spiritual perspective, culinary artisan Tuyet believes Vietnamese traditional foods are very balanced in terms of yin and yang.
"International visitors consider Vietnamese food to be beneficial for the health, because it contains less oil and fat than Chinese food, less spicy than Thai and South Korean food, plus more vegetables than European food. Foreign visitors like Vietnamese foods because the dishes are light and digestible. Furthermore, Vietnamese foods use many kinds of attractive vegetables and spices in harmony, leading to fantastic results."
Off the beaten track: Culinary tours aim to create interesting and unusual experiences for foreign visitors. - VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vu
With its strong reputation and wide range of dishes, Ha Noi has enough potential to turn its cuisine into a strong brand, attracting foreign tourists.
Vu Hung, a tour guide in Hoan Kiem District, said international visitors love to explore food on Ha Noi's pavement.
"They love to try food on the street, because through the food, they can further understand the daily lives of Hanoians. Most tourists express surprise, saying they did not expect the foods would be so delicious and different from the fare at their hotels."
But while the famously chaotic streets make for great pictures, a reorganisation of the chaos could help give the city stronger credentials
Professor Ngo Duc Thinh, director of the Centre for Belief Study and Culture Preservation of Viet Nam and author of the book Kham Pha Am Thuc Viet Nam (Exploring Viet Nam Cuisine), said many countries have food shops on pavements, but organise them well to ensure the shops are clean and welcoming for tourists.
"Ha Noi has long been famous for its street food. If we can organise and manage the stalls properly, many Ha Noi streets can become clean and tidy eating destinations," he said.
With many food tours already popular, the city must now focus on its marketing to solidify its notoriety.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, general director of Vietravel company, said: "Currently we are still struggling to choose highlights for the Viet Nam tourism brand. In my opinion, we should choose cuisine to be the brand name, because the world's leading marketing expert Philip Kotler once suggested, "Viet Nam – the world's kitchen".
"Recently, Christina Ha, a Vietnamese-American woman who won the title of Master Chef of America 2012 with traditional Vietnamese dishes, made a real impression on international travellers through Vietnamese cuisine, so we should take advantage of this to promote it further."
Do Thi Hong Xoan, president of the Viet Nam Association of Hotels, believes Viet Nam's tourism sector should train 1,000 Vietnamese chefs.
"However, to make cuisine become a tourism brand name, we should have strategies, solutions and specific programmes on food culture."
At present, the tourism companies that offer culinary tours say they have to find ways to create these tours.
In Ha Noi, there are about 10 restaurants offering cooking tours with prices between US$35-55 per person depending on each programme.
Tourists who have experienced these culinary tours confirmed that the traditional cuisine of Viet Nam always made an impression on them, so if they had a chance they would come back to Viet Nam again. - VNS

U.S. officials concerned over North Korea's 'ratcheting up of rhetoric'

By K.J. Kwon. Jethro Mullen and Pam Benson, CNN
 Kim Jong Un is briefed by his generals in this undated photo. On the wall is a map titled "Plan for the strategic forces to target mainland U.S."
Yeonpyeong Island, South Korea (CNN) -- The Obama administration on Wednesday slammed North Korea's pugnacious rants toward South Korea and the West and a U.S. intelligence official called the strident remarks worrisome.
"The ratcheting up of rhetoric is of concern to us," the official said.
The question is whether this is "just rhetoric," he said. Or, "are things happening behind the scenes indicating the blustering has something to it."
Another U.S. official said there is a lot of uncertainty about North Korea's intentions.
"North Korea is not a paper tiger so it wouldn't be smart to dismiss its provocative behavior as pure bluster," that official said.
"What's not clear right now is how much risk (North Korean leader) Kim Jong Un is willing to run, to show the world and domestic elites that he's a tough guy. His inexperience is certain -- his wisdom is still very much in question."
North Korea earlier said it was cutting off a key military hotline with South Korea amid high tensions between the two sides.
"Under the situation where a war may break out any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications," the head of a North Korean delegation told the South by telephone Wednesday, according to the North's state-run Korean Central News Agency.
There are several hotlines between North and South Korea. Earlier this month, Pyongyang disconnected a Red Cross hotline that ran through the border village of Panmunjom and was used by officials on both sides, according to the South Korean Unification Ministry.
And senior U.S. officials do not believe the cutting off of some communication by North Korea in itself is indicative of more dramatic action or is conclusive. The officials note that North Korea has cut these links before, some of them multiple times.
"It's part of the current threat-of-the-day pattern. I wouldn't extrapolate it to anything more conclusive," one official said.
"They want attention and they want to scare people both inside and outside their country."
Officials see steps such as cutting off communication are more substitutes for doing other more dangerous things rather than precursors to more dangerous things.
"That is certainly our fervent hope," the official said.
At the same time, there is concern about a North Korean miscalculation during this time. The officials said the lack of communication could complicate and hamper the ability of all nations involved (including North Korea, South Korea and the United States) to control and moderate any action -- and cycle of reaction should one begin as the result of a North Korean miscalculation.
The North linked its move to annual joint military exercises by South Korea and the United States, which it has cited in a string of threats against the two countries in recent weeks. Tougher sanctions approved by the U.N. Security Council also may have fueled its anger.
"It is important the U.S. send a message. In terms of the military side, the U.S. has clearly sent a message," the intelligence official said. "When people engage in this sort of rhetoric, you can't appear as if you are not responding," the official said.
The intelligence community has been providing the Obama administration with assessments of Kim Jung Un's control of the regime, but the official would not provide any details of that assessment.
Administration officials also regretted the tough talk from Pyongyang. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell cited "more bellicose rhetoric and threats (that) follow a pattern designed to raise tensions and intimidate others."
Josh Earnest, White House principal deputy press secretary, said the United States is committed to ensuring the security of its allies, such as South Korea.
"The North Koreans are not going to achieve anything through these threats and provocations. They're only going to further isolate the North Koreans and undermine international efforts to bring peace and stability to northeast Asia," Earnest said.
Pentagon spokesman George Little spoke on the government's nuclear threats to the United States and "its more achievable threats to attack South Korean military units and shell border islands."
"We take their rhetoric seriously, whether it's outside the norm which it sometimes is, or seems to suggest a more direct threat. And if you look at what they've said recently, it's been extremely provocative, threatening and bellicose. And it's a complete mystery to me why they would deem it in their own interest to launch this type of rhetoric at us and our allies," Little said.
The North's announcement Wednesday appeared likely to affect the movement of people in and out of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, a joint economic cooperation zone between the two Koreas situated on the North's side of the border.
"The measure taken by North Korea is not beneficial for the stable operation of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, and we urge them to withdraw the measure," the Unification Ministry said.
On Thursday morning, the day after the North said it was severing the line, South Korean workers were able to cross the border and enter the industrial zone, the semiofficial South Korean news agency Yonhap reported, citing the Immigration and Quarantine office in Paju, near the border.
An initial group of 197 workers went over the border at 8:30 a.m. local time (7:30 p.m. Wednesday ET) after North Korea gave the regular approval for their movement by phone through the industrial district's management committee, Yonhap said.
A total of 530 South Koreans were due to enter the Kaesong complex on Thursday, and 511 are scheduled to come back into South Korea, according to Yonhap.
A symbol of North-South cooperation, the Kaesong complex is also seen as an important source of hard currency for the regime in Pyongyang.
The North previously cut off the Kaesong military hotline in March 2009 -- also during annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises -- but later reinstated it, according to Yonhap.
The slew of recent fiery rhetoric from Pyongyang has included threats of pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea, as well as the declaration that the armistice that stopped the Korean War in 1953 is no longer valid.
On Tuesday, the North said it planned to place military units tasked with targeting U.S. bases under combat-ready status.
Most observers say North Korea is still years away from having the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead on a missile, but it does have plenty of conventional military firepower, including medium-range ballistic missiles that can carry high explosives for hundreds of miles.
The heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula came after the North carried out a long-range rocket launch in December and an underground nuclear test last month, prompting the U.N. Security Council to step up sanctions on the secretive regime.
CNN's K.J. Kwon reported from Yeonpyeong Island, CNN's Pam Benson and Elise Labott reported from Washington.Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Joe Sterling contributed to this report.