US-Vietnam Ties Strengthen with Military Exercises, to China's Chagrin

By Kirk, Donald | The Christian Science Monitor, August 12, 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

US-Vietnam Ties Strengthen with Military Exercises, to China's Chagrin

Kirk, Donald, The Christian Science Monitor

This week, the USS John McCain is engaged in military exercises in the South China Sea - setting a new threshold in US-Vietnam ties.

In the latest twist to Southeast Asia's blood-stained history, this week the USS John McCain is training Vietnamese forces in the South China Sea in search-and-rescue.

"It's extraordinary considering we were bombing Vietnam," says Frederick Brown, who was US consul-general in Danang in the early 1970s as war raged in Vietnam's jungles and rice paddies. "It's something the US and Vietnam want to do. It's a military-to- military relationship."

Adding to the historical irony, the USS John McCain, a guided missile destroyer equipped with the latest aegis counter-missile system, is named for the grandfather and the father, both US Navy admirals, of US Senator John McCain, who was imprisoned in Hanoi for more than five years after his US Navy plane was shot down in the war.

The USS McCain called at the central Vietnam port of Danang on Aug. 10 for what were called "cultural visits" two days after Vietnamese officials were flown out to the aircraft carrier George Washington, a 97,000-ton behemoth cruising the waters in defiance of China's claims to the entire South China Sea.

The blossoming relationship between the US and Vietnam is all the more remarkable considering Vietnam's relationship with neighboring China, its strongest ally during the Vietnam War. Vietnam now appears to want to balance one great power against another while China flexes its muscles around the Chinese mainland.

"I can only imagine the Chinese are not happy about it," says Mr. Brown. "The Chinese with sharp elbows are trying to assert their claims."

US and Chinese views collided last month when China's foreign minister, Yang Jiechi, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had staged "virtually an attack on China" after she told diplomats at the Association of South East Asian Nations in Hanoi that sovereignty was "a leading diplomatic priority."

Those remarks provided diplomatic background noise to Chinese air and naval exercises in the South China Sea around the Spratly Islands, a cluster of islets and reefs claimed in whole or part by Vietnam, the Philippines and Brunei, as well as China. And Vietnam has long protested China's hold over the Paracel Islands, seized by Chinese forces from the old South Vietnamese army in 1974 and held since then by China.

"It's all shadow boxing," says Carl Robinson, who spent years in Vietnam as a journalist and US aid worker and is now there leading lengthy tours of the country. "But the world does need to start paying more attention to those offshore islands and what's actually going on there."

Vietnam's 'very clever stuff'

Mr. Robinson says Vietnam "as usual, is playing all sides just like it did during the war" when it relied on China and the Soviet Union, often at odds with one another, for arms.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

US-Vietnam Ties Strengthen with Military Exercises, to China's Chagrin


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?