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The Vietnam-US Security Partnership and the Rules-based International Order in the Age of Trump

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 October 2021

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Summary

INTRODUCTION

Stepping out of the shadow of the past, Vietnam-US relations have seen new horizons since the two Cold War enemies normalized ties in 1995. In 2013, Hanoi and Washington entered into a “comprehensive partnership”, marking a new era of bilateral relations in which the two sides strengthened their ties beyond the economic domain. Currently, the two sides are considering upgrading their relations to the level of “strategic partnership”. The steady progress in bilateral cooperation, especially in the defence and strategic domains, has surprised regional observers and brought new substance to the relationship. Vietnam and the United States have indeed become important security partners, with each country playing an increasingly important role in the other's security policy.

This article analyses the Vietnam-US security relationship with a focus on Vietnam's perception of the relationship and the role that Hanoi would like Washington to play in its security policy. It is arguably their common perception of the China threat, especially in the South China Sea, which has added the strongest momentum to their strategic rapprochement in recent years. Due to this common interest in managing China's rise and its increasing maritime assertiveness, bilateral ties have continued to grow steadily despite the strategic uncertainty generated by the Trump administration. At the same time, such strategic dynamics have also led Vietnam to maintain its supportive view of the US-led regional and global orders. This position of Hanoi will likely stay unchanged in the near future.

The article starts with an overview of the foundations of the Vietnam-US security partnership, followed by an analysis of the role of the United States in Vietnam's national security strategy. It then reviews the key issues in their bilateral security partnership and discusses Vietnam's perception of US power under the Obama and Trump administrations. It concludes by assessing Vietnam's perception of the rules-based international order and the role of the United States in this order.

FOUNDATIONS OF THE VIETNAM-US SECURITY PARTNERSHIP

Among the major allies and security partners of the United States in Asia, Vietnam is perhaps the most special one given the two countries’ recent history of extreme hostility as well as their rival ideologies.

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Publisher: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
Print publication year: 2021

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