Kerry of­fers Hanoi aid in mar­itime dis­pute

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By ZHAO YANRONG zhaoy­an­rong@chi­nadaily.com.cn

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry of­fered as­sis­tance to pro­tect Viet­nam’s dis­puted mar­itime bor­ders with China in the South China Sea in ex­change for more trade and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion dur­ing a visit to the coun­try on Mon­day.

On his first trip to Viet­nam as the United States’ top diplo­mat, Kerry was in the cap­i­tal, Hanoi, on Mon­day seek­ing to as­sure the Viet­namese of the US com­mit­ment to free­dom of nav­i­ga­tion and the peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of dis­putes, amid ten­sions with China over con­flict­ing ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea.

“Co­op­er­a­tion in the re­gion should never be black or white. There is plenty of po­ten­tial for all par­ties to seek com­mon in­ter­ests,” said Qi Jianguo, China’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Viet­nam.

Re­la­tions be­tween Viet­nam and the US have been warm­ing re­cently, es­pe­cially af­ter the two coun­tries es­tab­lished a com­pre­hen­sive part­ner­ship when Viet­namese Pres­i­dent Truong Tan Sang vis­ited the US this sum­mer. Qi said a good re­la­tion­ship with Viet­nam is im­por­tant for the US’ re­bal­anc­ing strat­egy in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

“Viet­nam is not an ally for the US yet, but the coun­try has a sig­nif­i­cant strate­gic lo­ca­tion in the re­gion. Be­sides en­hanc­ing ties with its tra­di­tional part­ners in South­east Asia, the US also needs to find new sup­port to strengthen its re­bal­anc­ing strat­egy,” Qi added.

The US is cur­rently ne­go­ti­at­ing a ma­jor trade agree­ment with 11 Asia-Pa­cific na­tions, in­clud­ing Viet­nam.

Chu Hao, a re­search scholar at the In­sti­tute of South and South­east Asian and Ocea­nia Stud­ies of the China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions, said the US is us­ing trade pro­mo­tion, mar­itime se­cu­rity as­sis­tance and en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion with Viet­nam as a way to press the South­east Asian coun­try on re­forms.

“Even though Viet­nam works ef­fi­ciently to meet the US’ ideas in bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion, Hanoi is very clear about Wash­ing­ton’s at­tempts,” he said.

There are still many un­cer­tain­ties in the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two coun­tries, Chu added.

How­ever, the in­ten­tion of the co­op­er­a­tion re­cently pro­moted in the re­gion by the US and Ja­pan is quite ob­vi­ous, he said, re­fer­ring to the sum­mit be­tween Ja­pan and ASEAN.

“They aim to push ASEAN to the op­po­site side of China. Those ac­tions dam­aged re­la­tions be­tween China and the re­gion,” Chu added.

Even though China is Viet­nam’s largest trad­ing part­ner, the in­crease in trade be­tween Viet­nam and the US should still de­serve more at­ten­tion from China, he added.

“Viet­nam is an ex­port-ori­ented econ­omy, which re­lies on the trade sur­plus to boost do­mes­tic growth. But Viet­nam has a sig­nif­i­cant trade deficit with China, which is even big­ger than the sur­plus they made from the US, their sec­ond­largest trad­ing part­ner,” Chu said.

BRIAN SNY­DER / REUTERS

US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry talks to stu­dents who gath­ered to see him be­fore a speech in Tan An Tay along the Mekong River Delta on Sun­day. It was the first time Kerry has re­turned to the Mekong River Delta since he com­manded a swift pa­trol boat dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

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