U.S. Secretary of Defense visits Vietnam to strengthen support for Asia

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin seeks to strengthen security relations with Hanoi in Vietnam, which is one of several Southeast Asian countries involved in the South China Sea dispute.

Austin plans to work with his counterpart Pan Wenjiang and President of Vietnam On Thursday, Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Fan Mingzheng.

Earlier in the day, he stopped at the location where the late US Senator John McCain’s plane was shot down in 1967. McCain was the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and was a Vietnamese prisoner of war.

Since the Vietnam War, the relationship between Washington and Hanoi has been slow deepen As the two countries watched Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea more and more vigilantly.

Vietnam has become the strongest opponent of Chinese territorial claims and has acquired US military hardware, including Coast Guard ships.

Lieutenant General Wu Jiansheng, Director of the Department of Foreign Relations of the Ministry of National Defense, said that the coronavirus and measures to “strengthen maritime law enforcement capabilities” will be discussed.

“[Vietnam] Greg Pollin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told Reuters that he wants to know that the United States will continue to participate in the military and it will continue to exist in the South China Sea.

On Wednesday, a US Navy ship passed through the Taiwan Strait, angering Beijing.

South China Sea Issue

Before arriving in Hanoi, Austin also stopped in Singapore, which was his first stop in the area since joining the administration of US President Joe Biden.

In his speech in Singapore, he stated that the United States is committed to establishing a constructive and stable relationship with China, including strengthening crisis communication with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.

But he repeated it again Beijing’s claim Almost the entire South China Sea “has no basis in international law” and “tramples on the sovereignty of countries in the region.”

China has sovereignty over almost the entire resource-rich sea area. Trillions of dollars of shipping trade passes through the sea area every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping sovereignty claims.

In response to Austin’s statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said that the United States “deliberately discredited China” and “interfered in China’s internal affairs.”

On Tuesday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delivered a speech at the IISS Fullerton Lecture in Singapore and hit Singapore’s Senior Minister Zhang Zhixian with his fist. [Caroline Chia/Reuters]

While in Hanoi, the Secretary of Defense is expected to also sign a “Memorandum of Understanding” for Harvard University and Texas Tech University to create a database to help Vietnam find people missing in the war. A senior US defense official has The condition spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

At the time of the Austin visit, Vietnam was in the midst of a surge in the coronavirus, with Hanoi and half of the country under lockdown.

On Sunday, the United States shipped 3 million doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Vietnam, increasing the number it provided through the global COVAX vaccine program to 5 million doses.

Restrictions on Vietnam relations

However, there are some limitations on the speed and scope of the Vietnamese people’s satisfaction with deepening relations.

Experts say Vietnam has lingering concerns about Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in 2017.

Others questioned how the United States will pressure Vietnam on its human rights record.

In recent decades, Vietnam has undergone comprehensive economic reforms and social changes, but the ruling Communist Party maintains strict control over the media and has little tolerance for dissent.

“Wherever we go, we will discuss these values ??with our friends and allies, and we have no secrets about it,” Austin said in Singapore.

This month, Mark Knaper, the next US ambassador to Vietnam nominated by Biden, also promised to strengthen security relations, but said that only if Hanoi makes significant progress in human rights can they reach their full potential.

After Vietnam, Austin is scheduled to fly to the Philippines on Thursday. The Philippines blames China Repeated invasion Enter its territorial waters in the South China Sea.

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