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China and its neighbors
U.S. Loosens Restrictions on Weapons Sales to Vietnam

The U.S. announced today that will begin permitting the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam, though with one major condition: the weapons sold must be specifically related to maritime surveillance and security. The NYT reports:

The United States on Thursday partially lifted its longtime ban on the provision of lethal arms to Vietnam, a move that is intended to help Hanoi strengthen its maritime security as it contends with a more assertive China.

The policy shift was announced as Vietnam’s foreign minister, Pham Binh Minh, met here with Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and Secretary of State John Kerry.

The State Department emphasized that the policy change applied only to maritime surveillance and “security-related” systems and asserted that the decision reflected modest improvements in Vietnam’s human rights record.

The claims of improving Vietnamese human rights conditions are dubious at best. As the Times notes, what is really behind the policy shift is America’s desire to see China’s regional adversaries empowered to counter Chinese territorial aggression.

This latest cooperation between China’s opponents is but one part of an ongoing trend. With signs of Taiwan becoming friendlier with Japan, Japan becoming friendlier with India, India becoming friendlier with the U.S., and, now, the U.S. becoming friendlier to Vietnam, China should be wary that its aggressive and expansionist strategy could backfire. The last thing Beijing wants is a united front determined to put aside differences in order to thwart Chinese global and regional great power ambitions. Yet that is just what it is creating.

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  • Kevin

    Why would bolstering Vietnam’s capacity to fight a land war against China be ruled out? It shares a border with and has fought a land war with China in ’79. Any serious maritime conflict between the two would almost certainly see China try to knock out Vietnam’s ports and airbases as well as at least threaten an overland attack. Vietnam doesn’t need American weaponry to oppress its own population, its current military capabilities are more than enought to do that. This limitation is just a sign that Washington is not really serious about helping Vietnam stand up to China and is more concerned with posturing over human rights than balancing against Chinese expansionism. It is the sort of move that might convince Vietnam or Taiwan that Washington is not serious and that Finlandization might be a better option to ensure their security than partnering with the U.S.

    • ltlee1

      This is just one of many Washington’s small steps targeting China while at the same time pretending not to be anti-China.

      Washington’s goal is to preclude Vietnam and China from re-approaching each other and hopefully the schism between them will continue to deepen.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    China’s belligerence is presenting the US with the opportunity to negotiate a super favorable economic and military alliance with all of the countries from India to Japan and south to Australia. That Obama is too stupid or too leftist to cease this opportunity is only further proof of his incompetence as President.

  • teapartydoc

    This has nothing to do with geopolitical strategy as much as using it as a pretext for developing potential sources of campaign fund bundling in the military industrial complex. Any idea that this administration gives a flying intercourse about American interests is insanely naive.

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