US Vice President Kamala Harris ended her tour of Asia, the prime goal of which was to make other countries confront China.
US Vice President Kamala Harris visited the countries of Southeast Asia this week — Singapore and Vietnam.
The purpose of the tour was to bring the countries of the region, primarily of the ASEAN* bloc, together for the anti-China project. This goal fits into the US national security strategy, which states that China poses a "strategic threat" to the United States.
Washington has been consistently consolidating Europe against Russia lately. However, in the Asia-Pacific region (APR), such projects are much more difficult, since many are attracted to Chinese goods, loans and investments.
The only thing that may unite others against China is China's territorial claims in the South China Sea**: China declares the Spratly archipelago and the Paracel Islands its territory and tries to make this sea internal.
Harris' voyage took place against the background of chaos in Afghanistan. Parallels with the 1975 Saigon crisis definitely played a role at this point, so Harris showed no signs of arrogance during the tour.
The choice of Singapore was driven by the long-standing alliance between the two countries. Singapore and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding, according to which Singapore undertook to let US troops access its airports and ports and provide them with logistical support. With almost 80 percent of the Singaporean population being Chinese, the city state serves a bridge between the United States and the opposition in China.
The United States has long wanted to make Vietnam such an ally to be able to switch from "comprehensive" to "strategic" partnership that Hanoi maintains with Beijing. However, the last three US administrations have failed to achieve this goal so far.
Nevertheless, Vietnam has sharply criticized China for conducting military exercises in the disputed Spratly archipelago. Hanoi views both the Spratly archipelago and the Paracel Islands to be "an integral part of Vietnam."
In Singapore, Harris said:
"We know that Beijing continues to coerce, to intimidate and to make claims to the vast majority of the South China Sea. These unlawful claims have been rejected by the 2016 arbitral tribunal decision, and Beijing's actions continue to undermine the rules-based order and threaten the sovereignty of nations."
At a press conference with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Kamala Harris called the Vietnamese authorities to put pressure on Beijing.
She backed up her calls with gifts — 1.7 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. She also signed two agreements:
The budget of the US embassy construction project is evaluated at $1.2 billion. It embraces the area of 3.2 hectares and is considered to be a symbol of Vietnamese-American relations of the future.
Hanoi did not want to change the nature of relations with the United States. Vietnamese officials declared that Hanoi and Washington could be friends, but not for the purpose to confront other countries.
"Gathering forces to fight China, the United States considers Vietnam to be a very important link in this front line, in particular on the East Sea (South China) issue, let alone the common voice at the ASEAN," former director of the Institute of Strategy and Science of the Ministry of Public Security, Associate Professor, Major General Le Van Cuong told Baonghean.
The USA approaches Vietnam tackling security and defense issues, rather than economic ones.
"They need to go through Vietnam in order to strengthen their relations with the ASEAN, to strengthen their relations with countries such as Japan, India, Australia, etc.," the expert noted.
Vietnam needs the United States too. Vietnam's trade surplus with the United States amounts to nearly $50 billion. In addition, Vietnam would not say no to US high technologies, direct investments and favorable conditions for the import of Vietnamese goods to the United States, he noted.
"In terms of security and defense, cooperation is still required for the benefit of both sides, rather than against a third country,” Le Van Cuong said.
Hanoi is pleased that the United States continues to pledge to support Vietnam in order to protect its legitimate interests and maintain peaceful dialogue based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the expert added.
It is obvious that Hanoi, while trying to sit between two chairs, wants to avoid direct confrontation with Beijing.
China's The Global Times wrote that the United States would not be able to wind Vietnam around its finger as Hanoi will not give up on its interests in relations with Beijing in favor of Washington.
"Don't overestimate your dominance… countries in the region will not follow the US baton and jump into an anti-China chariot of the US,” China's Embassy in Vietnam said in response to offensive remarks made by US Vice President Kamala Harris, who accused China of bullying in the South China Sea during her visit to Vietnam on Wednesday, the newspaper wrote.
"The Chinese government's position on the South China Sea issue is consistent and clear-cut. China has no intention of raising new claims, nor will it give up its inherent and lawful rights,” said the embassy," the paper also wrote.
The Global Times reminded that neither Vietnam nor the whole world would ever forget the terrible war crimes that the United States committed during the war in Vietnam:
"The US used 15.35 million tons of bombs and mines in Vietnam, sprayed chemical agents such as 80 million liters of orange defoliant, causing the largest, longest, the most serious chemical agent disaster in the history of mankind, with 4.8 million Vietnamese impacted, and at least 150,000 children suffering from congenital malformations," the newspaper wrote.
Grigory Lokshin, leading researcher at the Center for the Study of Vietnam and ASEAN of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Pravda. Ru that it would be difficult for the United States to create the anti-Chinese coalition.
"It's not going to work, it's not working already. All the counties of the Asian region have their own interests and relations with China. China is their main trading partner. They will never be willing to stand up against China for no particular reason," the expert told Pravda. Ru.
* ASEAN countries: China, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan, as well as 10 Southeast Asian countries — Brunei, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.
** The South China Sea (Vietnam's East Sea) is a resource-rich water area, a vital commercial shipping route with trillions of dollars in annual turnover. China claims its rights for almost the entire sea and its islands, thus being in territorial dispute with Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled that China did not have priority rights to use the South China Sea. Beijing ignored that decision.
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