Blinken meets Vietnam leaders to boost US regional ties
Singapore, Apr 15 (EFE).- US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken met with Vietnam’s prime minister, Pham Minh Chinh, in Hanoi on Saturday to boost ties amid rising regional tensions and an increasingly assertive China.
Blinken kicked off his tour of Vietnam at the launch of a new US embassy compound in Hanoi.
The US official said that the groundbreaking new embassy “represents another significant step toward strengthening a vital partnership between our countries and between our people.”
“We’re advancing together a free, open, connected, prosperous, secure, and resilient Indo-Pacific region, one that is at peace and rooted in respect for the rules-based international order,” he added.
Blinken said that the construction of the eight-story embassy, which will take six years, will provide up to 1,800 jobs and add $350 million to the Vietnamese economy.
Back in August last year vice president Kamala Harris penned a 99-year lease on the land where the embassy will be built.
Blinken’s trip to Vietnam comes as both nations mark the 10th anniversary of a Comprehensive Partnership, which many analysts say could be upgraded to a “strategic partnership”, a status Vietnam only holds with China, Russia, India and South Korea.
When Vietnam and the US normalized relations in 1995, the US embassy in Hanoi had fewer than 30 employees, and “the small team that opened the embassy back then has grown to include more than 600 American and local staff,” Blinken added.
“We highly appreciate the role and responsibility of the U.S. towards the Asia Pacific, or, in a larger scheme, the Indo-Pacific,” PM Pham said, according to the US State Department.
According to the US, the Indo-Pacific is vital to “security and prosperity” with more members of the US military based in the region than in any other outside the US.
The Asia-Pacific region has become one of the main focal points not only for the US but also China which seeks to boost its influence in the region.
Hanoi and Beijing have for years been embroiled in a protracted dispute over the sovereignty of two archipelagos in the South China Sea.
The tension has resulted in several clashes between Chinese coast guard boats and Vietnamese fishing vessels.
The US rapprochement with Vietnam comes after Washington has sought to solidify ties in South East Asia.
On Tuesday the US and the Philippines launched their biggest joint drills in the South China Sea. Manila has moved closer to Washington since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. came to power in June last year after years of a pro-Beijing government under his predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.
Vietnam has so far tried to foster a balanced foreign policy known in academic circles as bamboo diplomacy, meaning the Asian nation wields a flexible approach when it comes to its international allies. EFE