Fri, Mar 25, 2011 - Page 8 News List

US asserts its power in Indochina

By Chen Hurng-yu 陳鴻瑜

Following the withdrawal of its armed forces from Indochina in 1973 and the defeat of South Vietnam by the North in 1975, the US became disinterested, even passive, in its attitude to Indochina affairs. For some Americans, any mention of Vietnam brought up feelings of loss and revulsion. It was not until 1995, following the settlement of the Cambodian problem in the early 1990s, that the US restored normal diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

In recent years, as China has become stronger both economically and militarily, the US has started to worry that its own sphere of influence in Southeast Asia could be irrevocably weakened. In response, the administration of US President Barack Obama has rapidly adjusted its policy toward Southeast Asia, especially Indochina, and has shown a strong interest in matters related to the South China Sea.

In 2005, the US and Vietnam signed a military cooperation agreement, which included plans for the US to provide military education and training to officers in the Vietnamese armed forces, and in June 2006 then-US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Vietnam for the first time.

Over the past few years, Vietnam, feeling threatened by China’s growing power and its activities in the South China Sea, has gradually turned toward the US in its foreign policy. It made friendly overtures to the US, offering access to the Cam Ranh Bay navy base, invited US companies to drill in its offshore oilfields, exchanged high-level visits and welcomed US businesspeople and Vietnamese Americans to invest in Vietnam.

Since 2008, Vietnam and the US have also held an annual US-Vietnam Political, Security and Defense Dialogue, with the venue alternating between Hanoi and Washington. The two sides discuss peacekeeping actions and training, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, maritime security, cooperation in fighting terrorism and narcotics trafficking, border security, preventing weapons proliferation, mutual visits by senior figures from both sides, as well as how to strengthen understanding between the two countries’ armed forces among others.

On March 30 last year, the US and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, under which the US will help Vietnam build nuclear power plants. Vietnam’s first two planned nuclear power plants will have two reactors each, generating a total of 4 gigawatts of electricity. The US Department of Energy is training Vietnamese officials in non-proliferation and safety methods. It also helped the country draw up a nuclear power law, which was enacted in 2008, and is helping the country implement nuclear export controls.

In November 2009, the US Navy sent missile destroyer the USS Lassen, under the command of its first-ever Vietnamese-American captain, Hung Ba Le, on a goodwill visit to the port city of Da Nang. On Aug. 9 last year, another missile destroyer, the USS John S. McCain, visited Da Nang, and took part in a joint training exercise with the Vietnamese navy. At the same time, the US also dispatched a strike group of three destroyers to take part in joint exercises with the Vietnamese navy in the South China Sea.

In June last year, the hospital ship USNS Mercy stayed for 13 days in Binh Dinh Province in central Vietnam, providing medical services in which 1,000 healthcare workers from the US and other countries took part.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top