U.S., Vietnam say they hope to boost ties as Blinken visits Hanoi

In his first visit to the key southeast Asian country as the top U.S. diplomat, Mr. Blinken kicked off his trip with a meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh

Published - April 15, 2023 09:28 pm IST - HANOI

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, accompanied by Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, left, and Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam Marc Knapper, second from right, participates in a groundbreaking for a new U.S. embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, on April 15, 2023.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, center, accompanied by Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, left, and Ambassador of the United States to Vietnam Marc Knapper, second from right, participates in a groundbreaking for a new U.S. embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam, on April 15, 2023. | Photo Credit: Reuters

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on April 15 expressed a desire to deepen and upgrade their ties as Washington seeks to solidify alliances in the region to counter an increasingly assertive China.

In his first visit to the key southeast Asian country as the top U.S. diplomat, Mr. Blinken kicked off his trip with a meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. In brief remarks before their meeting, he said during the past decade there has been "extraordinary progress" in ties between the two countries.

"We have now hope to be able to take it to an even higher level, deepening even further the economic partnerships," Mr. Blinken said, while noting the two nations mark the 10th anniversary of their formal partnership this year.

Mr. Chinh said both sides were looking to elevate ties "to a new height", after a phone call last month between President Joe Biden and the head of Vietnam's ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, a conversation he said yielded "great success."

The diplomatic anniversary and the Biden-Trong call could lead to a meeting between the two in July or other high-level meetings, analysts say. It is still unclear, though, when an upgrade of formal ties could be agreed.

The United States faces challenges in Southeast Asia in building a coalition to counter China and deter any potential action by Beijing against Taiwan. Many countries in the region are reluctant to antagonise their giant neighbour, which is not just a military power but also a key trading partner and source of investment.

For the U.S., Vietnam is a crucial Southeast Asian trading partner that Washington wants to bolster ties with. But for Hanoi, it has been a difficult balancing act, between cooperating with Washington without upsetting Beijing, even though Vietnam has been alarmed by China's increasing claims in the South China Sea.

Diplomatic calculus

The diplomatic calculus is further complicated by increasingly close relations between Beijing and Moscow, which last year declared a "no limits" partnership shortly after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"We highly appreciate the role and responsibility of the U.S. towards the Asia Pacific," Mr. Chinh said.

Some analysts expressed doubts about the potential upgrade.

"For one thing, there is no need, from Vietnam’s perspective, to unnecessarily antagonize China ... Another is that Hanoi wants to avoid appearing openly part of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Strategy designed to counter China," Rand Corporation Senior Defence Analyst Derek Grossman said.

Mr. Blinken also broke ground on a new U.S. embassy compound in Hanoi after meeting the prime minister, a project years in the making that he said represents "a significant step" towards strengthening ties.

In his meeting with Mr. Chinh, Mr. Blinken "emphasized the importance of human rights," State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said after the meeting. Rights groups have regularly raised concerns over the communist country's treatment of dissidents.

Earlier this week, a Hanoi court sentenced a prominent Vietnamese political activist to six years in prison for conducting anti-state activities, his lawyer said.

After meeting with foreign minister Bui Thanh Son, Mr. Blinken is set to get together with Trong, before he departs on Sunday for Japan to attend a meeting of foreign ministers of the Group of Seven wealthy nations.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in

Comments

Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.