David Koh For The Straits Times
US-Viet romance puts China in a fix
Published on Aug 22, 2014 11:45 AM
The intrigue in the US-China-Vietnam triangular relationship deepened on Aug 13, when General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, visited Vietnam and met top military and political leaders. No doubt, China will watch with weary eyes, and perhaps even lament that this romance between its competitors is all its own doing.
Gen Dempsey, sent by Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, said Mr Hagel and President Barack Obama told him: "The place for you right now is Vietnam."
His visit is the first by a top military commander from the US since 1971. And it was made despite other urgent military situations in the Middle East and eastern Europe.
The historic visit followed the return of US Senator John McCain from a trip to Hanoi a week earlier, and the visit of Vietnamese Political Bureau member Pham Quang Nghi to the US late last month.
To continue reading, log in if you are a subscriber
Enjoy 2 weeks of unlimited digital access to The Straits Times. Get your free access now!
Conversations with military and top party officials reveal that though a closer relationship with the US could be advantageous for Hanoi, some party members, as well as Vietnamese leaders who fought in the war with the US, might not like it. China can be expected to use its lobbying power within Vietnam to present opposing views. It is also quite possible that Hanoi is simply posturing in a bid to get China to treat Vietnam more favourably.