Blinken to visit Vietnam, Japan as Asia tensions flare

AFP , Tuesday 11 Apr 2023

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will visit Vietnam this week in the latest bid to build relations with a growing US partner as tensions flare with China over Taiwan, the State Department said Monday.

Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin
File Photo: Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pose for a photograph at the State Department in Washington. AP


Blinken will travel to Hanoi on his way to a Group of Seven foreign ministers meeting this weekend in the Japanese mountain resort of Karuizawa.

Blinken will "discuss our shared vision of a connected, prosperous, peaceful and resilient Indo-Pacific region," a State Department statement said.

Blinken will also participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for a new US embassy in Hanoi.

The United States has a growing relationship with Vietnam, including on defense, with the two countries largely reconciling despite bitter war memories.

Vietnam has longstanding tensions with China, whose own relations with the United States have deteriorated in recent years.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the top US diplomat for East Asia and former ambassador to Hanoi, called the relationship one "founded on mutual respect."

"Washington and Hanoi are almost completely aligned on the kind of Indo-Pacific we want to see," Kritenbrink told reporters, "where large countries don't bully small countries."

The idea "is to take our partnership to the next level," Kritenbrink said.

He acknowledged, however, that the "picture was mixed" on human rights, a longstanding concern of Washington with the communist state, pointing to concerns about freedom of expression and freedom of religion.

China on Monday completed military drills around Taiwan in the latest show of force against the self-governing democracy after its president traveled to the United States.

Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will also meet Tuesday in Washington with their counterparts from the Philippines, which has agreed to strengthen military ties with Washington, its former colonial power.

It will be Blinken's first trip to Vietnam since becoming secretary of state, although Vice President Kamala Harris previously visited the country.

Blinken will head to Hanoi after joining President Joe Biden on a trip to Ireland including Northern Ireland.

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