WASHINGTON --- “Our defense relationship [with Vietnam] is strong and represents one of the strongest pillars in our multifaceted bilateral relationship,” the assistant defense secretary for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs said today.
Randall G. Schriver told an audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies that the defense relationship with Vietnam has been strengthened even more over the last two years, and plans are to strengthen it even more based on a foundation of common and shared interests.
Strong Military Ties
The U.S. seeks enhanced military ties with Vietnam, he said. For instance, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visited Da Nang last year, the first such visit since the Vietnam War, with discussions about having another visit this year.
In 2017, the U.S. transferred a major piece of defense equipment to Vietnam — the Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class cutter USCGC Morgenthau. That ship is now very active in maritime security missions for Vietnam, Schriver said. “We’re hoping there will be a second such cutter available.”
He said the U.S. will continue to help enhance Vietnam’s military capabilities and pursue opportunities for military training and cooperation, concentrating on:
-- Vietnam’s security and regional stability
-- Maritime security and maritime domain awareness
-- Humanitarian assistance and disaster relief
-- Professional military education, including English language training
-- Military medicine
-- Search and rescue
-- Peacekeeping operations
Regarding peacekeeping, Schriver noted that a Vietnamese peacekeeping unit deployed to South Sudan, with some supporting assistance from the U.S. and other partners.
In addition to all of that, he said, “we’ve upgraded the level of our annual defense talks and we’ve had an unprecedented level of senior engagement, not only the president’s two visits to Vietnam since he’s been president, but last year alone two visits from [former] Secretary of Defense [James] Mattis.”
On a different type of cooperation, Schriver said he’s appreciative of Vietnam’s willingness to allow access by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Research and Investigation team for recovery operations of persons missing during the Vietnam War.
Reasons for Strong Relationship
Schriver said the U.S. and Vietnam share a common interest “in promoting a rules-based order, protection of sovereignty, individual rights of countries, no matter their size and our shared concern that there’s a potential erosion of a rules-based order, one that has allowed all nations in the Indo-Pacific to rise and prosper.
“We share a view that for the Indo-Pacific to continue to flourish, each nation in the region must be free to determine its own course within a system of values that ensures opportunities for even the smallest countries to thrive and be free from the predations of strong countries,” he continued. “In short, for Vietnam, what we want is a strong, prosperous, independent Vietnam, nothing else.”
The predation to which Schriver referred is by China.
“The region is increasingly confronted with a more assertive, confident China that is willing to accept friction in the pursuit of its interests,” he said, citing China’s militarization of islands in the South China Sea as an example.