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U.S. Countermoves: Bolstering Ties with Vietnam as Putin Visits

Daniel Kim Views  

Yonhap News

On the 20th, after visiting North Korea, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Vietnamese President To Lam. During their meeting, the two leaders agreed to enhance cooperation in energy and security and not form alliances with each other’s hostile nations.

According to Reuters, Putin emphasized in his meeting with Lam that “Russia highly values dialogue with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Vietnam.” He also expressed gratitude towards Vietnam for its neutral stance on the war in Ukraine.

After the meeting, Lam declared in a joint press conference with Putin that neither country will participate in alliances or treaties that harm each other’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. He highlighted, “We will strengthen cooperation in defense and security and jointly confront new and traditional challenges (to international stability).” They also agreed on central guidelines and principles to strengthen their comprehensive strategic partnership.

He stressed that both countries share interests in developing a reliable security structure that resolves disputes peacefully without force, avoiding closed military-political blocs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Putin’s visit to Vietnam suggests he is turning his attention to Southeast Asia to escape the deepened international isolation since the Ukraine war. Some interpret this as a move demonstrating that Russia is not overly reliant on China.

The Russian economy has become heavily dependent on China due to U.S. and European sanctions following the invasion of Ukraine. According to the Chinese Customs General Administration and the Central Bank of Russia, China accounted for 34% of Russia’s total trade in the first quarter of this year. This percentage was 18% before the invasion of Ukraine.

Strengthening relations with Russia, a major supplier of military equipment, is advantageous for Vietnam. The two countries already share a deep history, establishing diplomatic relations in the 1950s during the Soviet Union era. Many of the current Communist Party leaders in Vietnam, who are in their 50s or older, have studied in the Soviet Union. More than 80% of the weapons Vietnam has procured over the past 30 years are from Russia.

The two countries signed 11 agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) in oil, gas, nuclear energy, and education during their meeting on the 20th.

After meeting with Lam, Putin met with Nguyen Phu Trong, the Secretary of the Communist Party and the highest-ranking official in Vietnam, and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh. He paid respects at the mausoleum of Ho Chi Minh, the father of the nation. He met with Lam and Chairman of the National Assembly Tran Thanh Man, effectively meeting with Vietnam’s top four power holders.

In response to Putin’s bold actions, Biden urgently dispatched Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Kritenbrink to Hanoi for a visit scheduled for the 21st and 22nd.

During his visit, Kritenbrink plans to meet with high-ranking Vietnamese officials to emphasize the U.S.’s commitment to implementing a comprehensive strategic partnership with Vietnam and supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific region. White House Strategic Communications Director John Kirby stated that the focus will be strengthening cooperation with Vietnam.

Daniel Kim
content@viewusglobal.com

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