Boston, MA -- (SBWIRE) -- 02/17/2014 -- China's declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over disputed areas of the East China Sea, has raised concerns that China may take similar unilateral actions in the South China Sea. Given that Vietnam is involved in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea, most notably over the Spratly and Parcel Islands, any advances from Beijing would have far more serious repercussions on Vietnams defence and security policy.
Beijing's increasing assertiveness in the East/South East Asia region will no doubt have an impact on Vietnam's relationship with the United States. There were early signs of a closer relationship between Hanoi and Washington in December, with US Secretary of State John Kerry visting Vietnam where he reemphasised the new 'comprehensive partnership' between both Governments. This partnership highlighted heightened US investment and engagement in Vietnam. Vietnam is also developing defence and security ties with a range of regional and international partners, including India, South Korea, Russia, France and New Zealand.
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With the United States's strategy of rebalancing to Asia and China antagonising traditional allies, it will be interesting to see how the Vietnam-China-USA love triangle develops in 2014. Unlike other neighbouring countries, most notably Japan and South Korea, Vietnam has maintained a cautious reaction following Beijing's announcement of an ADIZ in November. However the warm reception proffered to John Kerry during his recent, may implicitly imply a reorientation of Vietnam's web of regional alliances.
Indeed, during his visit to Vietnam, the US Secretary of State announced a series of measures presumably intended to woo Hanoi. These include a US$32.5mn in US assistance for maritime law enforcement in Southeast Asian states, with $18mn of this earmarked for Vietnam. Part of this will go towards the purchase of five new patrol boats for the Vietnamese coast guard. In July 2013 Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang visited the United States, where he and President Obama announced a 'comprehensive partnership'.
The partnership called for cooperation on a whole range of issues including military-to-military cooperation. They also agreed to enhance cooperation at regional and international forum to support peace, stability, cooperation and development in the Asia-Pacific region. This no doubt signals part of a larger containment strategy towards China.
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