March 21, 2012
A new breed of diplomat for Vietnam
By The Hanoist
When Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh speaks to international audiences, he usually does so without a translator. At 53 years old, Minh’s relative youth and proficiency in English set him apart from his predecessors.
But he is not unique among his present diplomatic colleagues. Hanoi’s current crop of senior diplomats, appointed following the 11th Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party in January 2011, tend to be younger and more cosmopolitan than the dour communist officials who have historically been the face of the country.
This stylistic change reflects the coming of age of diplomats who studied in top American schools in the 1990s as Vietnam opened up. It also comes at a critical time in the country’s foreign relations. As the second-largest country (after Indonesia) in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Vietnam is increasingly seen as a key player in regional issues. Continue reading
September 30, 2010
Obama’s moral dilemma in Vietnam
By The Hanoist
As the United States deepens strategic ties with Vietnam in response to a rising China, a question now on many minds is how Washington will address Hanoi’s well-documented and continuing human rights abuses. The moral dilemma for the Barack Obama administration is how it can reconcile long-standing US support for democracy and human rights with its current realpolitik aims of winning friends and influencing states concerned by an overbearing Beijing.
These two often contradictory strands of American foreign policy were manifested in the media coverage surrounding Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presentations at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum held in Hanoi in July. Her public remarks before Vietnamese government leaders on upholding human rights dominated the first day’s headline.
On the following day, however, Clinton turned her focus to security matters. Her declaration that the US had a national interest in maintaining an open South China Sea and supported a multilateral solution to the maritime disputes there between China and ASEAN countries became the biggest story out of the ministerial meeting and still reverberates several months later. Continue reading
April 24, 2010
Vietnam’s guarded US embrace
By The Hanoist
Fifteen years after normalizing diplomatic relations, military cooperation between the United States and Vietnam is evolving bit by bit.
Both sides would like to counter China‘s military buildup and historic desire to dominate the region – including the strategic South China Sea where a quarter of the world’s trade transits and where Vietnam, China and other countries contest two island chains believed to contain rich mineral deposits.
While US motives are relatively clear – to deepen contacts with the Vietnamese military and establish areas of cooperation – the Hanoi side is often tied up in knots on how and whether to partner strategically with Washington, its former war adversary. Continue reading