Vietnamese General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong (R) and US President Joe Biden (L) review the guard of honor at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, 10 September 2023. Biden is on an official two-day visit to Vietnam. EFE/EPA/LUONG THAI LINH / POOL

US, Vietnam sign strategic partnership agreement amid China’s rise

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Sep 10 (EFE).- United States president Joe Biden and Vietnam’s leader Nguyen Phu Trong signed an agreement on Sunday that elevates their countries’ bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership.

The move is the latest step in Washington’s plan to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific, demonstrating that the US is a “Pacific nation, and we’re not going anywhere,” Biden said.

US President Joe Biden smiles during a press briefing at the headquarters of CPV Central Committee in Hanoi, Vietnam, 10 September 2023. Biden is on an official two-day visit to Vietnam. EFE/EPA/LUONG THAI LINH / POOL

“This is a new, elevated status that will be a force for prosperity and security in one of the most consequential regions in the world,” Biden announced at a press conference in Hanoi after meeting with Nguyen Phu, who serves as general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Biden framed the improvement of relations with Vietnam as part of the network of alliances he has been creating since he took over in January 2021, such as the revitalization of the Quad defense alliance (with India, Australia and Japan) and the creation of the tripartite Aukus (acronym for Australia, the United Kingdom and the US) pact.

In practice, the agreement seeks to boost semiconductor production in Vietnam, which has already established itself as a leading regional manufacturing hub and which some US companies, such as Intel, see as an alternative production destination to China.

Biden sees microprocessor manufacturing as a key issue for US security and the economy, especially given China’s strong market dominance and the possibility that supply chains could be disrupted again, as they were during the pandemic.

The agreement also cements a rapprochement that has been years in the making and roots it within the Vietnamese system.

The signing of the deal does not mean that Hanoi will become an unwavering ally of Washington, as Vietnam maintains a flexible foreign policy of balancing between the great powers, known as “bamboo diplomacy”.

Vietnam has had a “comprehensive cooperative strategic partnership” agreement with China since 1988 and in 2001 reached a similar pact with Russia.

After the signing on Sunday, Trong emphasized that “mutual understanding, understanding of each other’s circumstances, respect for legitimate interests and non-interference in internal affairs are always of great importance,” as reported by the official Vietnamese press.

Relations between Vietnam and the US have historically been strained, although the two countries normalized diplomatic relations in 1994, leaving behind the Vietnam War (1955-1975), which pitted the Soviet-backed communist government of North Vietnam against the US-backed regime of South Vietnam.

In addition, in 2013, with Barack Obama as US president, the two countries signed a comprehensive partnership agreement, which boosted cooperation in areas such as public health and combating financial crime.

This new chapter in US-Vietnam relations comes with both countries facing growing tensions with China.

Biden believes China is the US’ biggest competitor, while Vietnam is embroiled in a dispute with Beijing over the sovereignty of two archipelagos in the South China Sea, which sometimes leads to incidents between Vietnamese fishing vessels and Chinese patrol boats.

The US president arrived in Vietnam on Sunday after traveling from New Delhi, where he attended a three-day G20 leaders summit.

One of the meetings he held in New Delhi was with Chinese premier Li Qiang. “We talked about stability… it wasn’t confrontational at all,” Biden said. EFE