Mike Pompeo's visit to improve trade and security in the South China Sea

Pompeo, on his last trip abroad before the US presidential elections, also visited India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia. According to Vietnamese media, the United States must remain a great superpower, to counter China. In 2019, trade between Vietnam and the US reached US$ 77 billion, up by 32 per cent over the previous year.

Hanoi (AsiaNews) – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Vietnam on Thursday and Friday, invited by Vietnamese Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh.

According to local media, the purpose of the visit was to boost US-Vietnamese cooperation, especially in trade and security in the South China Sea and more broadly in the Indo-Pacific region.

Pompeo, on his last trip abroad before the US presidential elections, also visited India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia.

The trip provided an opportunity to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which fought a bloody war in the past.

Despite the war, according to local media, the Vietnamese are very much in favour of the United States retaining its great superpower status, to ensure Vietnam’s economic growth as well and above all freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific area.

This stance is clearly aimed at China, which the Vietnamese view as their the “Big” but invasive Communist “Brother”, which Vietnam has resisted for decades (and perhaps centuries, having long been a vassal of the Chinese Empire).

The tug-of-war about sovereignty over the Spratly islands – claimed by Beijing and Hanoi and five other countries – has now also spilled over into the economic sphere: fishing rights, oil exploration, exploitation of the Mekong waters, industrial competitiveness.

Yesterday, Pompeo met in Hanoi with Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, Foreign Minister Phạm Bình Minh, and Minister for Public Security Tô Lâm.

Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc reiterated that “Viet Nam always considers the United Stated of America as one of its leading partners,” and seeks “to strengthen comprehensive partnership with the US, especially in areas such as the economy, trade and investment.”

A report published by the US’s Congressional Research Service notes that US-Vietnam trade topped US$ 77 billion in 2019, a 32 per cent year-on-year increase. This is partly the result of trade diversion caused by the Sino-US trade dispute.

Vietnam’s exports to the US rose by 29.1 per cent, reaching US$ 61.35 billion. By comparison, exports to China rose by only 15.2 per cent, to 41.41 billion.

Pompeo’s visit coincided with the Indo-Pacific Trade Forum, held in Hanoi on 28 and 29 October. On this occasion, seven agreements and memoranda of economic cooperation worth several billions were signed.


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