Date: 11 September 2023

U.S. President Joe Biden Visits Vietnam

U.S. President Joe Biden expressed desire to elevate Vietnam to a strategic partner and strengthen tech ties between the two states. The president will arrive in Hanoi on September 10 to meet with General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong on the one-day visit to the Vietnamese capital after attending the annual Group of 20 leaders’ summit in India.

SOURCE: Evan Vucci/AP

The U.S.-Vietnam relationship has come a long way since the tumultuous years of the Vietnam War. Despite initial hostility, the two countries have gradually developed a cooperative partnership focused on economic ties and regional security.
Washington considers Hanoi a key element of its regional strategy while seeking to exploit Vietnamese-Chinese rivalry to build up economic and military influence in the Indo-Pacific. China and Vietnam have competing claims over territory in the South China Sea.
This year has seen a round of talks and meetings between senior U.S. and Vietnamese officials. The chief of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke by phone in March. Vietnam and the United States are both keen to elevate relations to a strategic partnership.
Washington is seeking to upgrade ties with Hanoi to a strategic partnership, an important step for bilateral relations. Both states have been involved in a comprehensive strategic partnership for the last decade. However, Vietnam has been cautious given the risk of antagonizing China, a giant neighbor that supplies key resources for its vital export trade, or Russia, another robust and traditional partner.
The U.S. president earlier suggested raising U.S.-Vietnamese ties to a strategic partnership level fifty years after the United States had withdrawn combat troops from the Vietnam War. In Washington’s diplomatic hierarchy, a strategic partnership is the second tier, only surpassed by the highest-level designation – a comprehensive strategic partnership. A comprehensive partnership now in force was agreed by the Obama administration ten years ago. Another challenge to U.S.-Vietnam ties is the issue of human rights in Vietnam. The United States has pushed Vietnam to improve its human rights record, and some progress has been made, but there is still a long way to go.
Experts say an upgrade in mutual ties could include increased military cooperation and U.S. weapons supplies. Washington and U.S. defense firms have openly said they want to bolster military supplies to Vietnam – so far largely limited to coastguard ships and training aircraft – as the country seeks to diversify away from Russia, which remains its main supplier. Military deals with the U.S. face potential hurdles, however, including the possibility of their being held up by U.S. lawmakers critical of Vietnam’s human rights record. Biden will be the fifth U.S. president to visit Vietnam since the end of the war––after Bill Clinton, George Bush Jr., Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.
Biden’s trip to Vietnam marks the first time a president memorializes 9/11 at a location other than the White House or three attack sites in New York, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon. The President will travel to Alaska to participate in a memorial ceremony with members of the military and their families while Vice President Harris will participate in the New York City observance.
Paweł Rudnik Graduate of the Master’s Degree in National Security at the Pomeranian University in Słupsk, specializing in International Security. President of the student branch of the Młodzi dla Polski Słupsk association. His main areas of interest are the topics of the Three Seas Initiative, Central and Eastern European security, international relations, history policy and diplomacy.
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