Vietnam central to US Indo-Pacific strategy: outgoing envoy

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said Vietnam and its natural leadership role in ASEAN was central to his country’s Indo-Pacific strategy.

Speaking at a press conference before leaving for his new assignment as the top diplomat for Asia, he said the U.S. believes that strengthening relationships with partners, friends and allies in the Indo-Pacific region is absolutely vital. Washington wants to work with like-minded partners and friends like Vietnam to promote not just an abstract vision, but really concrete policies that help all the countries.

U.S. ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink, Vietnam, Indo-Pacific, central position, East Sea, China, diplomatic relations, foreign affairs

U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink at a press conference in Hanoi, April 7, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy.

The U.S. and its partners will uphold a rules-based international order and support international law so as to avoid conflict, he said, adding that it was in America's national interest to have strong, successful, prosperous partners, friends and allies.

The U.S. also believes in the centrality of ASEAN and in Vietnam as a capable, successful country that naturally plays a leadership role in this region.

Kritenbrink said he thinks expectations on Vietnam will only grow in the years ahead, including in the U.S.

"This is demonstrated by the very capable performance that Vietnam has rendered as chair of ASEAN, and now as a two year member on the U.N. Security Council."

President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other American leaders "have made very clear the emphasis they place on the Indo- Pacific region in general and our partnership with Vietnam in particular. More than that, the U.S considers Vietnam to be one of the most important partners in the world," the envoy said.

On East Sea (South China Sea) issues, Kritenbrink said the U.S. continues to believe in the peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, in the sanctity of freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight and that all maritime claims should be based on international law.

Washington will always stand by its partners and allies in support of a rules based international order, continue to oppose the actions of other countries in the region, particularly China, who through its actions appears intent on intimidating provoking and threatening other countries, including in the East Sea, Kritenbrink said.

He also said he was very optimistic about the future of the U.S. -Vietnam partnership because the two sides have a shared vision. He said he'd seen evidence of this in all of the private conversations he had with Vietnamese officials and leaders over the last three and a half years. His assessment is also based on his analysis of all of the public comments and speeches that Vietnamese leaders regularly give, he said.

Identical vision

"I think we share this vision, it's almost identical. The language that we use to talk about the kind of region we want to live in is almost identical", he said.

The U.S. and Vietnam both want to live in a peaceful and prosperous region, one in which countries operate in accordance with international law, large countries do not try to bully and intimidate smaller countries, countries can trade freely, and disputes are resolved peacefully, he added.

Comments on the new political leadership in Vietnam, Kritenbrink said he personally, the U.S. government and American leaders congratulate and look forward to getting to know and working closely with Vietnam's new leadership.

"There's a great continuity in Vietnam's leadership which the U.S. very much welcomes," he said.

"We remain committed to a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam, which we think is in both our countries' national interests."

Kirtenbrink said the U.S. was thankful to Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong and President Nguyen Xuan Phuc for the great contributions they've made to the development of the U.S. -Vietnam partnership.

"I am confident that Vietnamese leaders will continue to prioritize the development of our bilateral relationship."

Kritenbrink said the U.S. -Vietnam partnership is stronger than ever. Their trade relationship is growing exponentially and bilateral trade volume has grown to almost $90 billion. Over the last three and a half years, American companies have signed $46.5 billion in trade deals with Vietnam. The two sides also have worked very closely to resolve several market access issues and other issues that concern the American business community in Vietnam.

He said security cooperation was expanding significantly. Both countries have worked hard together to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions related to North Korea and have advocated common positions on East Sea disputes. The U.S continues to provide significant assistance to the Vietnamese military and Coast Guard to build capacities especially in the maritime domain, he noted.

To VnExpress International query about the framework of the targeted Strategic Partnership between the two countries, he said the content of cooperation was already "strategic in every way" and beneficial for both.

If both sides continue to focus on the content of cooperation, continuing to expand the practical results delivered for both countries and their peoples, "the label is going to take care of itself."

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