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Hanoi Faces Balancing Act With China as Vietnam-US Ties Tighten

WASHINGTON — The elevation of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership shows an increasing level of shared interests between the two countries. But the enhanced ties do not mean Hanoi is drifting away from Beijing, its traditional partner, analysts say.

The two countries upgraded their bilateral ties when U.S. President Joe Biden met with Vietnamese Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi in early September. Between July 25, 2013, and September 10, 2023, the countries had characterized their relationship as a comprehensive partnership, a lower level of diplomatic engagement.

“The two leaders underscored the need to continue deepening political and diplomatic relations, and will promote regular exchanges of delegations and engagements at all levels to strengthen mutual understanding and build and enhance political trust,” the White House said in a statement about Biden and Trong’s meeting September 10 in Hanoi.
The diplomatic upgrade reflects a shared perception by Washington and Hanoi that both will benefit from enhanced cooperation as Beijing becomes increasingly aggressive in the region, according to analysts and independent news outlets.

The New York Times described China as an “important subtext” for the upgrade, as Biden “works to establish a network of partnerships in the region to counter aggressive action” by China.

Nguyen Khac Giang, an analyst at the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, told The Guardian newspaper: “The influence of China cannot be overlooked. Vietnam is among the few nations in Asia prepared to challenge China’s regional ambitions, all while maintaining open lines of communication with Beijing.”

The comprehensive strategic partnership is Hanoi’s highest level of diplomatic engagement with foreign countries.

The upgrade places Washington on par with Beijing in its diplomatic ties with Hanoi, which established a comprehensive strategic partnership with China in 2008. Vietnam, a communist country, also has comprehensive strategic partnerships with Russia, India and South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning called on the United States to “abandon hegemony and Cold War thinking” in her response to the Vietnam-U.S. upgrade, as reported by Reuters.

“We demand that the United States, when dealing with relations with Asian countries, must respect the common aspiration of regional countries for stability, cooperation, and development, abide by the basic norms of international relations,” Mao said on September 11.

Source : VOA News