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.