By Josh Boak and Aamer Madhani | Related Press
HANOI — President Joe Biden insisted Sunday that he’s not attempting to begin a “chilly battle” with China as he made his first go to to Vietnam, saying his objective is to offer stability all over the world by constructing U.S. ties with Vietnam and different Asian international locations.
“Now we have a possibility to strengthen alliances all over the world to keep up stability. That’s what this journey is all about,” Biden mentioned at a information convention. “It’s not about containing China. It’s about having a secure base.”
The U.S. president got here to Hanoi as Vietnam is elevating america to its highest diplomatic standing as a complete strategic associate, proof of how far the connection has advanced from what Biden known as the “bitter previous” of the Vietnam Battle.
The expanded partnership mirrored a broader effort throughout Asia to counter China’s affect as Biden has mentioned Vietnam needs to indicate its independence and U.S. corporations need an alternative choice to Chinese language factories. However Biden is pursuing these agreements whereas concurrently attempting to chill any tensions with China.
Biden, assembly earlier Sunday with Vietnam’s leaders, welcomed the 2 international locations’ new partnership and mentioned he hoped progress could possibly be made on local weather, the financial system and different points throughout his 24-hour go to to Hanoi.
“We will hint a 50-year arc of progress between our nations from battle to normalization to this new elevated standing,” Biden mentioned as he and Nguyễn Phú Trọng, common secretary of the Communist Get together of Vietnam, introduced the brand new relationship standing at social gathering headquarters.
The U.S. president, who has described himself as being a part of the “Vietnam era” though he didn’t serve in a battle, known as Vietnam “a pal, a dependable associate and a accountable member of the worldwide group.” He famous that Vietnam Battle veterans resembling John Kerry, Biden’s local weather czar, and John McCain, the late former Republican senator from Arizona, discovered methods to construct a relationship with Vietnam after the battle.
“Each males noticed so clearly, as I and so many others did, how a lot we needed to achieve by working collectively to beat a bitter previous,” he mentioned.
Trong pledged that his nation will work onerous to implement the settlement. “Solely then can we are saying it’s a success,“ he pledged.
Biden earlier Sunday throughout a separate look with Trong had described the U.S. and Vietnam as “crucial companions at what I might argue is a really crucial time.” Neither chief particularly mentioned how China’s financial and geopolitical rise had contributed to their international locations’ newfound partnership, but it was onerous to clarify the mutual embrace with out China’s regional affect.
Vietnam has been searching for a counterbalance to its relationships with different international locations. It beforehand bestowed the identical degree of relations on China and Russia. Elevating the U.S. to the identical standing means that Vietnam needs to hedge its friendships as U.S. and European corporations search for options to Chinese language factories.
With China’s financial slowdown and President Xi Jinping’s consolidation of political energy, Biden sees a possibility to carry extra nations — together with Vietnam and Cambodia — into America’s orbit.
Biden arrived in Vietnam on Sunday and was welcomed with a pomp-filled ceremony exterior the mustard-colored Presidential Palace. Scores of schoolchildren lined the steps waving small U.S. and Vietnam flags and Biden watched from an elevated overview stand as high-stepping members of the army marched previous. He and Trong met afterward Communist Get together headquarters.
Each expressed happiness over seeing one another once more after final assembly some eight years in the past in Washington, mentioned Biden, who then was vp.
Trong sought to flatter Biden, who faces persistent questions at dwelling about being 80 years outdated and working for reelection subsequent yr.
“You may have nary aged a day, and I might say you look even higher than earlier than,” Trong mentioned. “I might say each function of you Mr. President is complementing your picture.” Biden chuckled.
Biden was given 5 draft deferments and was exempted from army service as a result of he had bronchial asthma as a teen.
Earlier Sunday, Jon Finer, Biden’s chief deputy nationwide safety adviser, addressed experiences that Vietnam was pursuing a deal to purchase weapons from Russia, even because it sought deeper ties to america. Finer acknowledged Vietnam’s prolonged army relationship with Russia and mentioned the U.S. continues to work with Vietnam and different international locations with related ties to Russia to attempt to restrict their interactions with a nation the U.S. accuses of committing battle crimes and violating worldwide regulation with its aggression in Ukraine.
U.S. commerce with Vietnam has already accelerated since 2019. However there are limits to how a lot additional it may well develop with out enhancements to the nation’s infrastructure, its employees’ expertise and its governance. Nor has elevated commerce routinely put the Vietnamese financial system on an upward trajectory.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo mentioned that the CEOs she talks with rank Vietnam extremely as a spot to diversify provide chains that earlier than the pandemic had been overly depending on China. Raimondo has been attempting to broaden these provide chains by means of the Indo-Pacific Financial Framework, an initiative Biden launched final yr.
“Whether or not it’s Vietnam or Malaysia, Indonesia, India, corporations are actually taking a tough have a look at these international locations as locations to do extra enterprise,” Raimondo mentioned. “It is usually true that they should enhance their workforce, housing, infrastructure and, I’d say, transparency in authorities operations.”
Vietnam’s financial development slipped throughout the first three months of 2023. Its exporters confronted larger prices and weaker demand as excessive inflation worldwide harm the marketplace for shopper items.
Nonetheless, U.S. imports of Vietnamese items have practically doubled since 2019 to $127 billion yearly, in response to the Census Bureau. It’s unlikely that Vietnam, with its inhabitants of 100 million, can match the size of Chinese language manufacturing. In 2022, China, with 1.4 billion individuals, exported 4 occasions as many items to the U.S. as did Vietnam.
Related Press author Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.