Vietnam Time

4/22/2015 10:55:04 PM

20 years U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relationship: Small Steps to Big Game

This year marks a two-decade anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relationship. In retrospect, it is a long way between the two nations which used to be former foes in a bloody war that claimed more than fifty-eight thousand American soldiers and more than two million Vietnamese lives from both the North and South Vietnam to fix the wounds.

For pessimists, Vietnam and the U.S. have missed multiple opportunities to elevate their relationship to a new level. For optimists, the two countries have made lots of achievements in bilateral trade and confidence building measures. They have grounds to believe that. In 2014, the U.S. for the first time, overtook the EU to become Vietnam’s biggest export market. Vietnam exported 28.5 billion dollars to the U.S. in 2014, an approximately 20% year-on-year increase meanwhile.

A view from Conference entitled “Vietnam - United States relationship: For 20 more successful years” (Source: VNA)

Vietnam is crucial to the U.S. simply because of its strategic position right next to a rising China, overlooking the South China Sea. Numerous analysts and pundits have talked about Vietnam’s geostrategic location that draws attention from Obama administration to help check a rising China but Brantly Womack, a China and Vietnam expert from the University of Virginia, argues that American policy towards Vietnam is largely driven by bilateral interests or global concerns rather than by triangulation.

Womack also refutes the idea that Vietnamese sensitivity to Chinese infringement makes Vietnam the potential best candidate for standing up to China in the region. In the same vein, high-ranking officials from both Vietnam and the U.S. have also repeatedly played down the China factor in boosting their bilateral relationship. It is understandable that Vietnam does not want to improve the relationship with the U.S. at the expense of China. The U.S., of course, does not want to put Vietnam in an awkward situation that the latter has to choose either...

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