America has returned to Southeast Asia
With the official visit to Singapore and Vietnam of US Vice President Kamala Harris, the White House has sent a message to Southeast Asia. It is “America is back” in a region that plays an increasingly important role in US strategy.
On the afternoon of August 26, Harris left Vietnam to return to Washington, ending her first Southeast Asia tour as US Vice President.
In an "interim national security strategy guide" released in March, US President Biden emphasized the importance of cooperation with Asian nations. It said that the Biden administration would deepen its partnership with India and work alongside New Zealand, Singapore, Vietnam and other ASEAN members to advance its objectives.
Therefore, at meetings with the leaders of Singapore and Vietnam, the US Vice President shared the Biden administration's vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, raised trade and security issues, including the East Sea issue, and promote economic cooperation.
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong welcomed the "very valuable" high-level visits of the US and said that Harris's visit was an indication that Washington was aware of the need to protect and promote its substantial and important interests in Southeast Asia.
US Vice President Kamala Harris arrives in Hanoi. Photo: Pham Hai
From the two former enemies, Vietnam and the US have had a common voice and mutual understanding in the reconciliation process.
The two sides established many high-level dialogue mechanisms, including a political security dialogue mechanism to exchange views and enhance understanding.
In Hanoi, Vice President Harris continued to affirm the US commitment to a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam, as well as a free, open and healthy Indo-Pacific region. The Vietnam - US relations are developing strongly and comprehensively in all fields, from politics - diplomacy to trade - investment and security - defense.
Cooperation in trade and investment is a bright spot in the relationship between the two countries. Bilateral trade has increased 200 times, from 451 million USD in 1995 to more than 90 billion USD in 2020. The US is Vietnam's second largest trading partner.
Exports of US goods to Vietnam reached over 10 billion USD in 2020, and US imports last year reached 79.6 billion USD. US investment in Vietnam was $2.6 billion in 2019.
In Hanoi, Harris pledged to promote economic activities between the two sides, especially the building of a sustainable supply chain. Vietnam plays an increasingly important role in the world's manufacturing supply chain, but this position is being threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To help Vietnam respond to the pandemic, the US will continue to provide vaccines as committed through the COVAX Facility. This is very meaningful for Vietnam at this time when the economy is stalled because of social distancing measures as the number of people infected and dying from Covid-19 is increasing. If there are enough Covid-19 vaccines, economic activities in Vietnam will soon be restored.
In addition, the establishment of the Southeast Asia Regional Office of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Hanoi will help Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries to conduct research in the fight against infectious diseases like Covid-19.
As for climate change, scientists have warned that the Mekong Delta is one of the places most affected by sea level rise. Therefore, there is an urgent need to take countermeasures. The US government has committed to help Vietnam in this field.
Through the US Agency for International Development Government (USAID), the US has launched the Mekong River Coastal Habitat Conservation Project. The $2.9 million project will be implemented in three years with the participation of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Cooperation will continue to be strengthened within the framework of the Lower Mekong Initiative.
Supporting a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam
The US Vice President at a press conference on the afternoon of August 26. Photo: Nguyen Tri
In the field of security cooperation, maritime security is always a central issue. With the need to protect the activities of fishermen, exploration and exploitation of marine resources in its exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, Vietnam needs to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies in the sea. The US has been actively supporting the capacity building of the Vietnam Coast Guard.
In addition, the two sides have committed to establishing medical cooperation between the Vietnamese Army and the US Department of Defense to expand humanitarian and disaster response capacity, and cooperate to promote healthcare for soldiers, veterans and Vietnamese people.
In particular, Vice President Harris emphasized the US commitment to Vietnam's future and the long-term nature of the Vietnam-US partnership. Accordingly, education is always a top priority for any country.
The USAID has announced the Higher Education Reform Partnership, a five-year project offering up to $14.2 million to strengthen teaching, research, innovation, and governance of the three largest national universities in Vietnam.
Along with American universities and private sector partners, the project will support comprehensive economic opportunities for nearly 150,000 Vietnamese students. This is also the goal to support a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam as an important partner of the US.
US Vice President Kamala Harris, the first US Vice President to visit Vietnam, had three busy days in Hanoi, with a packed schedule.