In meetings with Vietnamese leaders on July 29, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will seek to strengthen ties with Hanoi while the two countries monitor China’s activities in the South China Sea (Vietnam calls it the East Sea) with increasing alarm.
Despite growing military ties, more than four decades after the Vietnam War, the administration of President Joe Biden says there are limits to the Vietnam-US relationship as long as Hanoi makes progress regarding human rights.
Vietnam has emerged as the strongest voice of opposition to China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea and has received US military hardware including coast guard ships.
“Vietnam wants to know that the US continues to engage in military communication, continues to be present in the South China Sea,” said expert Greg Poling of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Lieutenant General Vu Chien Thang, director of the Foreign Affairs Department of Vietnam’s Ministry of National Defense, said on July 27 that the two sides would discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to “strengthen maritime law enforcement capacity.”
A senior US Department of Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the two sides will also sign a “memorandum of understanding” for Texas Tech University and Harvard to set up a data center to help Vietnam search for potential threats. lost in the war.
On July 25, the US sent 3 million more doses of the COVID-19 Moderna vaccine to Vietnam, bringing the number of US vaccines donated through the COVAX program to 5 million doses.
Defense Minister Austin will meet his Vietnamese counterpart along with Vietnam’s state president and prime minister
Poling said there is a limit to the speed and extent to which Vietnam feels comfortable deepening ties with the US.
There are also limits to how willing the United States is to deepen ties with Vietnam.
Vietnam is important in countering China, but the US says Washington needs Hanoi to improve its human rights record.
Vietnam has undergone sweeping economic reforms and social changes in recent decades, but the ruling Communist Party still tightly controls the media and does not tolerate dissent.
This month, Mr. Marc Knapper, who was nominated by President Biden to be the next US ambassador to Vietnam, pledged to strengthen security ties with Hanoi but stressed that these relationships can only be achieved full potential as Hanoi makes significant progress on human rights.