US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit Vietnam at the end of July during his Asia tour starting July 23 to countries including Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. The US Embassy in Hanoi posted this notice on Facebook on July 20.
According to the US Embassy, “Secretary Austin’s visit demonstrates the importance the Biden-Harris administration places on Southeast Asia and ASEAN as a vital part of the regional architecture of the Indian Ocean – Pacific. This visit will highlight the United States’ enduring commitment to the region, as well as its interest in upholding the rules-based international order in the region and promoting ASEAN centrality.”
VTC quoted Major General Nguyen Hong Quan, former deputy director of the Strategic Institute of the Ministry of Defense, saying that the visit of the head of the Pentagon to Vietnam is part of the overall strategy in the relationship between the two countries. Mr. Quan told VTC:
“In terms of Vietnam-US relations, the relationship between the two countries is at a stage that is perhaps never as good as it is now. Figures in the new US government apparatus such as National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, State Secretary Antony Blinken all had phone conversations with their Vietnamese counterparts. Both sides want to promote bilateral relations.”
Currently, Vietnam and the US have a comprehensive partnership. For a long time, there have been many speculations about the possibility that the two countries will elevate the relationship to a strategic partnership, especially when China is taking aggressive actions in the East Sea (South China Sea) and putting pressure on ASEAN countries, including Vietnam.
In the Biden Administration’s Interim National Security Strategy Guidelines, Vietnam and Singapore are the only two Southeast Asian countries listed as close US partners in the region.
The defense relationship between the two countries Vietnam and the United States has also made many important steps since 1995 when the two countries restored diplomatic relations. In 2016, the United States completely lifted its ban on arms sales to Vietnam.
The United States also equips patrol boats for the Vietnam Coast Guard, most recently two Hamilton-class coastal patrol boats. In 2019, the US also handed over to Vietnam six Metal Shark rapid response patrol boats to the Vietnamese coast guard.