US counters China in ending Vietnam arms embargo

HANOI — In lifting its ban on sales of lethal weaponry to Vietnam, the U.S. seeks to curb the growing Chinese presence in the South China Sea as Hanoi tries to strike a diplomatic balance between the Western superpower and a longtime Asian ally.

“More than two decades of normalized ties between our governments allows us to reach a new moment,” U.S. President Barack Obama said here Monday in a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.

“Both countries have completely normalized relations,” Quang said, ushering in a new era of bilateral ties.

Washington is likely eyeing greater cooperation with Hanoi in the South China Sea. Vietnam is expected to purchase P-3C anti-submarine patrol planes and other hardware to boost surveillance capabilities in the disputed waters. The Vietnamese navy recently bought six subs from Russia but seeks to bolster air patrols against the vastly larger Chinese fleet. Beijing is said to possess 70 or more submarines.

The U.S. hopes to bolster military cooperation with Vietnam and to gain access to its key naval stronghold of Cam Ranh Bay. The port, just 550km off the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands, would help the Americans keep a closer eye on the region.

Two destroyers became Japan’s first warships to make port in Cam Ranh Bay on April 12. The Maritime Self-Defense Force sent another vessel there in late May, effectively making regular calls to the strategic port.

Full article: US counters China in ending Vietnam arms embargo (Nikkei Asian Review)

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