Biden arrives in Vietnam to strengthen bilateral relations against China

World News
2023-09-10 | 05:52
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Biden arrives in Vietnam to strengthen bilateral relations against China
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Biden arrives in Vietnam to strengthen bilateral relations against China

US President Joe Biden arrived in Vietnam on Sunday, seeking to establish a new milestone in the bilateral relationship amid growing competition with China.

Biden, who disembarked from Air Force One around 16:00 local time (09:00 GMT), is set to meet with Nguyen Phu Trong, the leader of the ruling Communist Party, in Hanoi.

The two leaders are expected to sign a "comprehensive strategic partnership," which Vietnam has not previously tested with countries other than Russia, India, South Korea, and China. While Hanoi maintains a non-aligned position between Washington and Beijing, it shares US concerns over China's claims in the South China Sea, which is a persistent source of tension in the region.

On the eve of Biden's visit, The New York Times reported that Vietnam had been secretly negotiating a new arms deal with Russia despite international sanctions. The report cited a document from the Vietnamese Ministry of Finance, indicating that this agreement is likely to be funded through a joint oil project between Russia and Vietnam in Siberia.

France Press Agency contacted the Vietnamese government for comment, but they have not provided a response yet.

The United States and Vietnam, a growing industrial center, have increasingly close trade relations. Washington considers Hanoi an important partner and seeks to establish global industrial supply chains with less reliance on China.

Sunday's program includes a reception, speeches, and a press conference for the 80-year-old American President, who was recently awarded the highest military medal to a helicopter pilot who saved four soldiers during the Vietnam War.

The following day, Biden will meet with Vietnam's Prime Minister and President.

On the eve of his arrival, Lake Hoan Kiem in central Hanoi, a popular family destination, was adorned with both American and Vietnamese flags. In a nearby historic neighborhood, a souvenir shop sells T-shirts with Joe Biden's face printed on them.

The shop owner, Truong Thanh Duc (61 years old), said, "I think the United States is a good friend of Vietnam."

He expects that "President Joe Biden's visit will bring more trade deals and jobs for the Vietnamese people."

However, Biden will have to balance strategic interests with defending human rights, as Vietnam has a dismal recent record in this area. Dissidents face intimidation, harassment, and imprisonment after unfair trials, and there have been reports of torture to extract confessions, according to Human Rights Watch.

Biden, who frequently criticizes China's human rights record, has remained silent on Vietnam. Activists doubt that he will address this issue during his visit.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed on Tuesday that the President will raise issues related to freedom of expression, religious freedoms, and other basic human rights.

Biden's visit comes shortly after a US government committee released a scathing report on religious freedom, condemning the "ongoing and seemingly worsening" violations in Vietnam.

On Saturday, Nguyen Bac Truyen, a legal expert and advocate for religious freedom, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion in 2018, announced on Facebook that he had been released and allowed to travel to Germany with his wife.

Vietnam often releases political prisoners before visits by US Presidents.

Since 1995, all US Presidents have visited the country in Southeast Asia.

Sullivan stated that Biden's visit to Hanoi is part of a decades-long effort "to overcome the painful shared legacy of the Vietnam War."

This legacy will be strongly present during this trip, which includes a Monday visit to the memorial of the late Republican US Senator John McCain, who served in the war and passed away in 2018.



AFP
 

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Biden

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