HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam's police chief was elected Saturday by the National Assembly to become president — the second-highest post — and promised to "resolutely" protect the country's sovereignty amid an ongoing territorial dispute with longtime rival China.
Public Security Minister and police general Tran Dai Quang, 59, received 436 votes from 465 assembly members who cast their votes, the Communist government said on its website.
In Vietnam, the president is the head of state and chief commander of the military, while the prime minister — to be chosen next week — oversees the economy. Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong holds the top job. Both men are members of the powerful 19-member committee that effectively rules the country.
After taking the oath of office, Quang vowed in a televised speech to "resolutely and perseveringly fight to firmly defend the country's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, the national interests and security."
Vietnam is locked in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea, and several assembly members have complained that the government has not taken a firm enough stand toward China and its growing territorial assertiveness in the region.
Quang also said he would push ahead with the country's Doi Moi economic reforms, and work to "strengthen Vietnam's prestige and position in international arena."
Hailing from northern province of Ninh Binh, Quang rose through the ranks in the powerful Ministry of Public Security and was appointed minister five years ago. He was widely expected to become president after being re-elected to the Politburo at the Communist Party Congress in January. Four of the Politburo members were current or former senior police officials.