An increasingly aggressive China is facing threats in different fronts. A misstep in any one area will significantly dent and hammer its economic and geo-political ambitions.
With China flexing its muscles in the South China Sea, Vietnam has won the promise of a visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier which will essentially deepen defence ties between Hanoi and Washington.
Within Southeast Asia, Vietnam is the only one who has stood its grounds against an increasingly aggressive China which has laid claims to the majority of the waterways in the region.
On Tuesday, Jim Mattis the U.S. Defense Secretary told his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich in Washington that a strong defence relationship was based on common interests that included freedom of navigation in the South China Sea.
“The Secretary welcomed Vietnam’s engagement and growing leadership in the Asia-Pacific region,” said the Pentagon in a statement.
The visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier to Vietnam next year will be the first such visit since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
U.S. President Donald Trump had discussed the possibility of a visit with his Vietnamese counterpart Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc when they met at the White House earlier in May.
As per Ha Hoang Hop, a top Vietnamese political analyst who advises the Vietnamese government, the agreement is consistent with Vietnam’s diplomatic strategy of being open to all countries.
“Vietnam is not willing to compromise on issues of sovereignty and also makes its own preparations,” said Ha Hoang Hop.
Vietnam’s growing defence relationship with the U.S. along with that of the India and Japan have unnerved Beijing.
With the manner in has claimed the waterways, the seven sea reefs and has installed military installations on it, Beijing has become very sensitive to even a veiled reference to it. So when Vietnam referred to it in ASEAN it pricked Beijing’s Jupiter ego.
The waterways are strategic in the region since cargo more than $3 trillion passes through it every year.
The United States, Japan and Australia, have cautioned China saying it has to ensure that it maintains its expected decorum and its code of conduct in the South China Sea which it has committed to and is legally binding.
They’ve also underlined the fact that they will strongly oppose all “coercive unilateral actions”.