HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnam says it will begin participating in United Nations peacekeeping operations early next year, a further sign that it wants to assume a bigger role in international affairs.

Facing rising demand, the UN has appealed for countries to send more troops and police officers to help carry out its peacekeeping missions around the world. Vietnam didn't say how large a contribution it is prepared to make. Most of the 115 participating countries currently make only token contributions of less than 40 people.

The state-controlled Tien Phong newspaper on Tuesday quoted Vice Defence Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh as telling visiting UN Assistant General Secretary Edmond Mulet that Vietnamese troops would be available from early next year. The report gave few other details.

Vietnam opened its economy to foreign investment in the 1990s and has followed a steady policy of embracing regional and international institutions. But the Communist rulers of the country's 87 million people have shown no sign of relaxing bans on freedom of speech and political activism even as they seek greater global clout.

Countries contribute troops to the UN for a variety of reasons, including national prestige, the ability to influence individual missions and a perception that doing so may help in bids for elected seats at the world body. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon acknowledged in 2011 that sourcing peacekeepers was a major problem, saying he had been "begging leaders to make resources available to us."

There are currently 15 UN peacekeeping missions around the world. Bangladesh is currently the biggest contributor with more than 8,000 personnel, closely followed by Pakistan and India. The United States and most European countries, while being the major bankrollers of the peacekeeping program, mostly prefer to deploy their troops with NATO and EU or other Western-led missions.

A study last year by the International Peace Institute placed Vietnam among 33 countries that had potential to either begin contributing troops or significantly strengthen their commitment. Vietnam's neighbour and fellow Communist state China is a moderate contributor that the study said could become a larger player.