On April 15, 2021, the Australian News website had an article “Will Vietnam decide the fate of the South China Sea?” by author Jamie Seidel.
The East Sea is the name that Vietnam uses to refer to the sea area with the international name the South China Sea, which is a continental margin sea and is a part of the Pacific Ocean, stretching from Singapore to the Taiwan Strait. These waters and their archipelagos are subject to disputes and conflicts between several countries in the region, including Vietnam – China’s closest neighbor in the South China Sea.
The article mentions the relationship between Vietnam and the US and China. Vietnam is arguably the only Southeast Asian country to take a stance against China in everything from China’s construction of hydroelectric dams in the upper Mekong River to the right to fishing and natural resource exploitation on Vietnam’s coast.
According to the article, despite strongly opposing China, Vietnam still did not choose to stand with the US, although the US has repeatedly expressed its goodwill with visits to Hanoi by national security advisers and foreign ministers over the years.
In April last year, a Chinese Coast Guard sank a Vietnamese fishing boat near the disputed Hoang Sa (Paracels). China has also brought a geological drilling rig to penetrate into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone. Beijing decides for itself the new administrative zones on the fishing grounds that Hanoi considers itself.
How will Vietnam, a country believed to be dominated and overwhelmed by China over sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, will be affected in the context of rising tensions between the two powers of the US and China?
Some domestic experts have assessed that Vietnam is in a position to benefit from US policies in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, the US wants to receive Vietnam’s support for the Indo-Pacific Initiative, to ensure order and safety of navigation in these waters.
So is Vietnam the country that determines the fate of the South China Sea in the future if it chooses to lean towards the US in the battle between the US and China?
Master Hoang Viet commented on this, on the same day with an article with similar questions on the Australian website:
“It is true that Vietnam only plays an important role in it, but Vietnam is not a country that can make changes in the East Sea.
Vietnam is not the only Southeast Asian country to speak out strongly about South China Sea issues. For example, in the case of Whitsun Reef, the Philippines spoke louder. But the Philippines changed its stance constantly. Vietnam always holds its stance.
If Vietnam sides with the US now, the situation of the South China Sea will change dramatically. But until now, Vietnam still does not want it, although the US side really wants Vietnam to become a member of the coalition or play a more important role in the quartet as well as in the Indo-Pacific Initiative. Vietnam is still cautious but its trend seems to be closer to the US than to China.”
In April 2019, the Commander of the US Indo-Pacific Command visited Vietnam for the first time. Admiral Davidson stated, “Defense cooperation between the US and Vietnam is based on the two countries’ common strategic interests in ensuring Vietnam’s sovereignty and independence and promoting an international order based on the rule.” A year later, the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and escort ships docked at the Vietnamese port of Danang.
This was the second US carrier visit since the end of the war in April 1975. The USS Theodore Roosevelt was escorted by the USS Theodore Roosevelt during that year’s visit as cruiser USS Bunker Hill. These are not only actions that show that the ice sheet in the postwar relationship between Hanoi and Washington has gradually dissipated, but also a sign of Vietnam’s importance in international relations in Southeast Asia, especially when the security situation in the region is increasingly tense. Vietnam’s stance will likely be key to the balance of power in this region.
On July 13, 2020, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo formally announced the US stance, rejecting China’s undue claims on sovereignty in the South China Sea and committed to cooperation with countries in the region. Indo-Pacific, to ensure the open and free navigation of navigation, in accordance with international law. According to Washington, Beijing’s claims to offshore resources in most of the South China Sea are completely illegal. The campaign to bully small countries to control those resources is also illegal. The world will not allow Beijing to view the South China Sea as its maritime empire.
Political observer, journalist Nguyen An Dan, assessed the impact on Vietnam from the above move by the US:
“Vietnam benefits from the conviction that this time the US resolves to take action, not a general statement as before. Previously when the US was not ready to handle China, most of the statements made by the American political world are just verbal support, but not factual. Now it goes into practice. Once the US goes into action in the South China Sea, all the small countries in this region will benefit. Even countries outside the South China Sea will benefit when they become US allies in weakening China.”
Not stopping there, in November 2020, US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien visited Vietnam and expressed his clear US stance against China’s bullying against countries. small area.
Mr. O’Brien stated: “We share a deep commitment to the Indo-Pacific region, based on rules of respect, fairness, and principles of international law such as sovereignty and freedom of navigation. The region has no interest in going back to an imperial era when truth belonged only to the strong. That is why the US takes a strong stance against China’s coercive bullying in the South China Sea and security threats in the Mekong region.”
Regarding the relationship with China, the Spokeswoman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam Le Thi Thu Hang always affirmed that the Communist Party and the State of Vietnam always attach great importance to strengthening the friendly and cooperative neighborly relationship comprehensive with the Party, State and people of China.
Ms. Le Thi Thu Hang also reiterated at the 13th Party Congress, held in Hanoi that, Vietnam affirmed its unchanging stance as independence, autonomy, multilateralism, diversification, promotion, improve relations with partners, especially important partners, including China.
According to an article on the Australian news site on April 15, author Jamie Seidel stated that, in addition to diplomatic moves, the US is also interested in strengthening military relations with Vietnam. The country has twice invited the Vietnamese Navy to participate in the Pacific Rim exercises (RIMPAC). However, Vietnam does not show much interest in which side to choose.