Main » News and comments » 2023 » Are Vietnam and America Moving Towards a Strategic Partnership?

Are Vietnam and America Moving Towards a Strategic Partnership?

06.07.2023
698

By V. Caporale

After a long Chinese presence in Vietnamese-claimed South China Sea territory, the United States sent the USS Ronald Reagan to Vietnam this week at a Vietnamese invitation for a port visit—only the third such visit since the Vietnam War. This visit was not only a powerful signal of deterrence, but also symbolized the growth of relations between the two countries over decades.
Just fifty years ago, the United States withdrew from Vietnam after more than a decade of brutal conflict. Since then, the relationship has grown into a vital partnership, especially in recent years. Given the upward trend in relations and China's increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, some experts have either called for or predicted a formal transition from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership, which both countries have expressed a desire to do. However, given Vietnam's concerns about possible repercussions from China, prospects for improved relations remain unlikely.
Normalization began with trade relations, strengthened by the signing of a bilateral trade agreement in 2001: between 1995 and 2022, bilateral trade between the two countries increased from $451 million to $113 billion.
These efforts culminated in 2013 when the two countries upgraded their relationship to a comprehensive partnership. This update has created a comprehensive framework for cooperation between the two Pacific powers in the areas of trade, security, climate change and people-to-people interaction.
Building on this momentum, in 2015 Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong made the first visit of a leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam to the White House. Less than a year later, President Barack Obama became the first president since Bill Clinton to visit Vietnam on a bilateral visit, and the second since the war. These visits led to the Obama administration's decision to lift the embargo on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam.
The lifting of the embargo gave both countries the opportunity to improve their security relations. Since 2016, Vietnam-U.S. security cooperation has included several U.S. aircraft carrier dockings, participation in RIMPAC military exercises, millions of dollars in defense equipment transfers, especially maritime security-related equipment such as U.S. Coast Guard boats, training aircraft, and patrol boats. , as well as numerous high-level visits.
In March of this year, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken visited Vietnam, where both countries expressed their desire to develop their relationship. Blinken said: “These are… some of the most important moments we've had… We've had a wonderful trajectory over the last couple of decades. We are convinced that it can and will become even better.” Similarly, Prime Minister Pham Min Chin said the two countries "hope to take relations 'to new heights'," Reuters reports. Blinken even suggested a tentative time frame of "weeks and months" for the announcement.
At first glance, this improved relationship makes sense. While the United States is trying to decouple its economy from China (to "de-risk"), Vietnam has become a major link as a partial replacement in the supply chain. Major manufacturers such as Microsoft, Foxconn, Apple and Samsung have shifted some of their operations to Vietnam to reduce the costs of future economic clashes between China and America or US sanctions and restrictions imposed on companies operating in China. This move further deepened their economic activity.

 

Read also:

Hot June 2023. The Planet Hit Another Temperature Record Ahead of Schedule

Saudi Arabia Hosts First Full-Scale Hajj Since Pandemic