From our regional correspondent in Tokyo (Japan)
Joe Biden is expanding and strengthening his diplomatic and military alliances throughout Asia. US President Joe Biden was due to arrive this Sunday, September 10 in Vietnam for a two-day official visit with the intention of taking another step forward in the bilateral relationship. Since the opening of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1995, 20 years after the end of a murderous war, all American presidents have visited Vietnam, starting with Democrat Bill Clinton in 2000. And during his stay, Democrat Joe Biden is expected to conclude an “extensive strategic partnership” with his Vietnamese counterparts, the highest degree of diplomatic proximity established by Hanoi. Against a backdrop of tensions with China.
A major step forward in the relationship between the two countries
“I think this strengthening of the strategic partnership is an important development for the relations between the United States and Vietnam,” said Dr. Huong Le Thu, associate professor in the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for strategic and international studies (CSIS), based in Washington. “After facing each other in a bloody war, they reconciled to become close partners,” she adds. This trip “is a spectacular step,” assured the White House National Security Advisor. So far, Vietnam has only established such a partnership with Russia, India, South Korea and China. And it is China that Joe Biden has in mind with this visit, he who is carrying out intense diplomatic activity throughout Asia in order to stand up to the second world power.
“However,” says Hanh Nguyen, researcher at the Australian National University, “this is not the announcement of an “alliance” between Vietnam and the United States with the aim of containing China.” Vietnam is pursuing a similar strategy with China and is also diversifying its relations with other nations. “There are also discussions about strengthening relations with Singapore and Indonesia,” adds Hanh Nguyen, also an associate researcher at the Yokosuka Council on Asia Pacific Studies (YCAPS) in Japan. Vietnam “has always said not to take sides, not to choose the United States against China. The Americans know this very well,” notes Nguyen Quoc Cuong, former Vietnamese ambassador to the United States (2011-2014), to Agence France-Presse.
The American president is nevertheless betting that Vietnam is not sorry to get closer to Washington, at a time when Beijing’s claims in the South China Sea are an almost permanent source of tension for the region. “I am convinced that Chinese coercion was an accelerator of the American-Vietnamese rapprochement”, assures Huong Le Thu, a boulevard is opening for the United States and Vietnam to collaborate on defense issues, ship stopovers , training and even joint maneuvers.”
Human rights violations
Joe Biden, campaigning for his re-election, also thinks in economic terms. He wants to establish global industrial circuits less dependent on China and for this, he needs Vietnam, which is looking for partners and capital in order to move upmarket technologically. The Vietnamese economy is booming and is recovering new investments every day that would normally have been directed towards China, which is worrying. Even if the human rights situation in Vietnam remains problematic. Joe Biden promised that he would raise the thorny issue of religious freedoms during his stay.