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Japan, the U.S. and Vietnam not on same page with China

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Vietnam has become the latest focus in the U.S.-China contest for the hearts and minds of Southeast Asian nations.

Now U.S. ally Japan has joined the fray by offering defense cooperation with Vietnam. But this effort is unlikely to go far or deep in drawing Vietnam to the allies’ side. Indeed, Vietnam is China’s to lose.

Both the U.S. and China see Vietnam as a key claimant in the South China Sea. If either can stick and carrot it to their side, they think the rest will follow. This makes Vietnam a critical player.

In late July, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin traveled to Vietnam to bolster the U.S. effort to bring it into a U.S.-led coalition against China.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit in late August was designed to do much of the same. In her meeting with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Harris said, “We need to find ways to… raise the pressure… on Beijing to abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and to challenge, its bullying and excessive maritime claims.” She also offered “material and training assistance to enhance its maritime security capacity as well as more visits with U.S. warships.” The highlight of her visit was a U.S. proposal to elevate the relationship from a comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership. Vietnam has so far demurred.

Harris’ visit was followed by one from Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi. He met with Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang and they agreed to an arrangement that Japan will supply Vietnam with military equipment — including naval vessels.

Moreover, they signed an agreement that, according to Kishi, elevated their partnership to “a new level” that will include multinational joint exercises. In his speech in Hanoi, Kishi said Japan and Vietnam “are in the same boat and share the same destiny.”........

© The Japan Times

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