On Saturday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed a willingness to develop and enhance bilateral ties as Washington strives to strengthen regional allies in response to an increasingly aggressive China.
Blinken began his first visit to the major Southeast Asian country as the top US ambassador with a meeting with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. In brief remarks before their meeting, he stated that ties between the two countries had made “extraordinary progress” during the last decade.
“We have now hope to be able to take it to an even higher level, deepening even further the economic partnerships,” Blinken said, while noting the two nations mark the 10th anniversary of their formal partnership this year.
Chinh said both sides were looking to elevate ties “to a new height”, after a phone call last month between President Joe Biden and the head of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, a conversation he said yielded “great success.”
The diplomatic anniversary and the Biden-Trong call could lead to a meeting between the two in July or other high-level meetings, analysts say. It is still unclear, though, when an upgrade of formal ties could be agreed.
The United States faces challenges in Southeast Asia in building a coalition to counter China and deter any potential action by Beijing against Taiwan. Many countries in the region are reluctant to antagonise their giant neighbour, which is not just a military power but also a key trading partner and source of investment.
For the U.S., Vietnam is a crucial Southeast Asian trading partner that Washington wants to bolster ties with. But for Hanoi, it has been a difficult balancing act, between cooperating with Washington without upsetting Beijing, even though Vietnam has been alarmed by China’s increasing claims in the South China Sea.