20:32 GMT +307 December 2019
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    Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang shakes hands with China's President Xi Jinping (R) during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Beijing on November 10, 2014

    China Eyes Historic Shift in Vietnam Relations

    © AFP 2019 / POOL / Kim Kyung-Hoon
    Asia & Pacific
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    China's state news agency Xinhua issued a commentary about China's desire to improve relations with Vietnam. Vietnam has been developing closer relations with the United States, which has attempted to pull the country away from cooperation with China and Russia.

    China sees "a new spring" in its relations with Vietnam ahead of the country's Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong's visit to Beijing, a commentary in the country's state-run Xinhua news agency said on Monday.

    Vietnam has been the focus of increased attention for Russia, China and the United States in the past several weeks, with rows over Russian refueling flights and a US Congressional visit to the country. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev arrived with a two-day visit to the country on Monday.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (L) shakes hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi before their meeting at Diaoyutai Guesthouse in Beijing on April 15, 2014
    © AFP 2019 / POOL / Kenzaburo Fukuhara
    Medvedev's visit to Vietnam also precedes Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's three-day visit to Moscow. Wang Yi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will hold negotiations on Tuesday.

    Ahead of the visit, Wang Yi said that Russia and China are united in their views of a multipolar world, the same idea proposed to Vietnam in the Xinhua commentary.

    "If and only if China and Vietnam, both strategically and from the view of future trends, put common interests above all else, adhere to friendly association, mutually beneficial cooperation and united development, always resolve controversies and antagonisms in a proper manner and strive to settle issues by political means, Chinese-Vietnamese friendship will certainly develop and become inherited generation to generation," the commentary said.

    Medvedev Visit

    During his visit to Vietnam on Monday, Medvedev signed several important deals on economic cooperation. In part, Russian oil giant Gazprom Neft will negotiate to buy a 49 percent stake in Vietnam's Dung Quat refinery, which produces 30 percent of the country's refined oil products. Gazprom Neft also intends to modernize the refinery.

    The deal is likely to be part of an asset swap in which Vietnamese state oil and gas company PetroVietnam will buy a stake in Gazprom Neft's exploration and development of the Pechora Sea in Russia's north.

    The swap could also decrease Vietnam's dependence on oil from the Middle East. The Dung Quat refinery currently gets 85 percent of its oil from Vietsovpetro, a joint venture between PetroVietnam and Russia's Zarubezhneft. The other 15 percent comes from Middle Eastern oil.

    Russia and Vietnam also signed deals on the development of railroad infrastructure and assembly of Russian-made automobiles in Vietnam. The deal could mean the expansion of production of the Lada Granta, which has also been rebadged as the Datsun on-Do. Russian truck maker KAMAZ operates a plant in Vietnam which assembles 600 trucks per year.

    US Influence

    A US Congressional group headed by House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi arrived in Hanoi for talks with party and state leaders. While the visit was overshadowed by consequences of the US role in the Vietnam War, it also discussed Vietnam's role in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement, which Vietnam signed on to in 2008.

    The visit was preceded by articles in US media about the "threat" that Russian-made Vietnamese subs could pose to China.

    In March, the United States attempted to pressure Vietnam to stop allowing Russian refueling planes to the Vietnamese Cam Ranh base, which is also where Russian-made submarines are stationed.

    On April 6, two US Navy ships, the destroyer USS Fitzgerald an the coastal combat ship USS Fort Worth docked in Da Nang, a port in central Vietnam. The visit is part of the 20 year anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

    The US is Vietnam's biggest export partner, with 16 percent of its exports going to the US, compared to 12 percent going to China.

    However, the deal could create internal tensions in Vietnam, as its financial and economic center is in Ho Chi Minh City, in southern Vietnam, while the capital Hanoi is in northern Vietnam.

    The US Agency for International Development (USAID), which is known for its role in creating political movements in countries such as Yemen, has been operating governance programs as part of its "Trade Acceleration Plus Project" in Ho Chi Minh City. Ho Chi Minh City used to be called Saigon, and was the capital of US ally South Vietnam prior to Vietnamese reunification in 1975.

    The US government broadcaster Radio Free Asia, which employs exiles from former South Vietnam, has its website and radio signals blocked and jammed in Vietnam. The broadcaster focuses on strikes and political tensions in southern Vietnam, particularly Ho Chi Minh City.

    Related:

    Russia’s Gazprom Neft to Buy 49 Percent in Vietnamese Refinery
    Vietnam’s Balancing Act Between Its Tricky Triangle of Interests
    Vietnam Military Blasts US for Interfering With Russian Refueling Flights
    Tags:
    economic cooperation, diplomatic relations, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Vietnamese Communist Party, Xinhua News Agency, USAID, Nancy Pelosi, Dmitry Medvedev, Nguyen Phu Trong, Wang Yi, China, Vietnam, United States, Russia
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