US President Biden visits Vietnam: From wartime enemies to high-level allies?
A new partnership is expected between US President Joe Biden and Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
The four American soldiers were surrounded by approximately 100 Vietnamese fighters, and Taylor’s two-seater helicopter was out of fuel and under fire. Taylor persisted and saved their lives. As Biden said at the ceremony, Taylor’s actions helped rewrite the destiny of four families.
Biden steps into a very different Vietnam and a phenomenally changed relationship with an old war foe when he lands at Hanoi’s Noi Bai International Airport on Sunday.
As part of his visit to Vietnam, Biden is scheduled to meet the highest level leaders of Vietnam’s Communist Party, which was once an enemy of the US. “This is a significant step in strengthening our diplomatic ties,” US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said ahead of the visit.
“Vietnam will play a leading role in our growing Indo-Pacific partnership network,” Sullivan said. In addition, both countries had struggled to overcome the “painful shared legacy” of the war, which claimed the lives of millions of Vietnamese and 58,000 US soldiers.
While diplomatic ties and trade are foremost in the scheduled meeting between Biden and Vietnam’s most powerful figure, Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, Washington has its eyes on China, which is increasingly flexing its economic and military muscle in the Asia Pacific region.
As well as watching Biden’s visit closely, China will be assessing whether Vietnam’s cozying up to the US will weaken Beijing’s influence in Hanoi or alter its strategic interests.
The bilateral relationship has reached a new level of maturity
Despite the fact that Vietnam and the US have already signed a “comprehensive partnership”, speculation has centered around the possibility of elevating relations to the highest level of a “comprehensive strategic partnership” – the highest ranking in Vietnam’s diplomatic hierarchy, said Le Hong Hiep, senior fellow and coordinator of the Vietnam Studies Programme at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute.
According to Hiep in the ISEAS Fulcrum online magazine, it would “represent a remarkable breakthrough in bilateral ties” if that happens during Biden’s visit.
According to Hiep, Vietnam only forms such partnerships with those who are important for its security, prosperity, and international standing. In signing the agreement, Vietnam will join a club of only four other comprehensive strategic partners: China, India, Russia, and South Korea. There are concerns over a backlash from China, but Hiep said upgrading ties with the US at this time “makes perfect sense” for several reasons.
Despite China’s regional muscle flexing, Washington’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific maritime area aligns with Vietnam’s interests. In addition to being Vietnam’s second largest trading partner (after China), the US is also the country’s biggest export market. Hiep points out that closer ties with such an important business partner would be a “sensible move for Hanoi”. It is also important to pay attention to timing.
Taking the step to elevate ties with Washington now would be better than waiting until the US-China competition sours further, putting Vietnam in a more difficult situation.
However, closer ties with the US do not signify a major shift in Vietnam’s “strategic trajectory”, since it is in Hanoi’s interests to pursue a “balanced foreign policy”.
Calculated a risk that was worth taking
According to Nguyen Khac Giang, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS and a scholar of Vietnamese politics, the US may place greater importance Hanoi is considering upgrading relations with Vietnam as a counterbalance to China.
According to Giang, Vietnam sees the agreement as serving a range of goals, including revitalizing its struggling economy and strengthening public support for its foreign policy.
As a calculated risk worth taking, the “upgrade serves a range of interests from geopolitical counterbalance to economic diversification,” he said.
Carl Thayer, emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy at the University of New South Wales, said Vietnam has skillfully balanced its relations with larger powers. While China’s economy is “in deep trouble” and the global economy has slowed, Vietnam sees the importance of deepening economic ties with the US.
The news reference is ALJAZEERA