Trump may turn to Vietnam for help on South China Sea
Hanoi could emerge as a key player in Washington’s long-term Southeast Asia push that’s aimed at neutralizing Beijing’s influence in the South China Sea.
On Wednesday, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will be the first ASEAN leader to visit the White House since President Donald Trump‘s election and the U.S. may look to tap into the emerging market’s friction with China.
“Vietnam sits in a very interesting position in Southeast Asia,” said Rodger Baker, vice president of strategic analysis at geopolitical intelligence firm Stratfor. Because Hanoi maintains a strong position against Beijing’s activities in the South China Sea, Trump may eye Vietnam as a potential counter to China in the disputed area, Baker explained.
The world’s second-largest economy claims 90 percent of the sea, home to over 250 islands and rich natural gas reserves, while Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan assert ownership of certain parts. And as Beijing ramps up island-building and military construction in the maritime region — reports recently emerged of Chinese rocket launchers in the Spratly Islands — Hanoi has not shied away from publicly denouncing the mainland.
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