GOOD MORNING FROM LONDON
Southeast Asian nations balance relations between Beijing + Washington but none has as fine a line to navigate as Vietnam. Nikkei Asia reports the country’s strategic importance to both puts it at the centre of their rivalry, necessitating an independent position + promoting good relations. That was apparent in recent talks between Foreign Minister Wang Yi + his Vietnamese counterpart, Bui Thanh Son, on the sidelines of a Mekong River cooperation meeting in Myanmar. Their discussions were cordial, emphasising the need to work together for stability, development + prosperity.
Disputes over trade + territory in the South China Sea rich in fish, oil + gas have long marred relations. Wang Li, in observing the socialist values shared by their communist governments + common strategic interests, highlighted the gains to be made from China’s “high-value opening up” and stressed the need to maintain communications. Son said Beijing was Hanoi’s top diplomatic priority, but he also called for favourable conditions for Vietnamese exports + a resumption of commercial flights affected by the pandemic. With China being Vietnam’s biggest trading partner + a major supplier of materials, it has been careful not to upset ties.
Such is also the case between Hanoi + Washington. Significantly, Vietnam has been accused by the United States of many of the same claimed violations of rights +freedoms as China and is involved in trade and currency disputes. Hanoi, like Beijing, has refused to condemn Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine. But it has largely avoided American tariffs, sanctions and other punishments.
Hanoi looks to Washington as a strategic bulwark against Beijing’s growing strength but Hanoi resists US President Joe Biden’s pressure for Vietnam to join its push to create a Nato-like security grouping in Asia to project power against China. China-US tensions are ever uppermost.