12:50 GMT19 January 2021
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    Washington has recently lifted its arms embargo on Vietnam, encouraging Hanoi to add advanced American weapons to its shopping list, raising the question: what is really behind the Obama administration's move?

    With the US lethal arms embargo being lifted, Vietnam is likely to jump at the opportunity to stockpile new weapons, Robert Farley, a senior lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce, suggests in his article for the Diplomat.

    Citing documents obtained by the Defense News media outlet, the academic reveals that the US might soon sell F-16 Viper fighters to the Vietnam People's Air Force (VPAF).

    "But while the F-16s might capture headlines, the far more interesting moves come in the area of maritime ISR. Vietnam appears interested in acquiring American drones, radars, surveillance equipment, and electronic warfare capabilities. Most interesting of all, Vietnam appears to want P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft, which would massively increase its surface and anti-submarine warfare capabilities," Farley stresses.

    According to the academic the VPAF and Vietnam People's Navy (VPN) cannot yet boast any advanced patrol assets, which make it especially difficult to fill the gap between "see-ers" and "shooters."

    While the academic describes with great enthusiasm Vietnam's future acquisitions, the question arises: why Washington has lifted its decades-old lethal arms embargo on Vietnam now and what is really behind the move.

    According to China's English-language Global Times, the move is clearly aimed against Beijing.

    "Obama claimed that this move is not aimed at China, yet this is only a very poor lie which reveals the truth — exacerbating the strategic antagonism between Washington and Beijing," the media outlet wrote Tuesday, adding that "Vietnam is playing a particularly special role in the US rebalance to the Asia-Pacific strategy."

    Is Beijing's stance justified? Likely so.

    Farley writes that the US-made weaponry will provide Vietnam with capabilities that it "can use to exert greater control over the South China Sea."

    "Not coincidentally, this is precisely the geostrategic outcome the US would like; an ally that can challenge the PLAN [Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy] and the PLAAF [People's Liberation Army Air Force] in what they believe to be their own back yard," the US academic stresses.

    He adds, however, that it is not enough to sell weapons to Hanoi. According to Farley any arms sale requires the deployment of US trainers, advisors, and technicians that would facilitate "the development of a long-term US-Vietnam military relationship."

    Undoubtedly the elimination of the US arms embargo will bolster the VPAF and the VPN's capabilities in the South China Sea, Farley insists.

    "Combined with existing Vietnamese cruise missile and SAM capabilities, these systems can provide the key link in the kill chain, and potentially a strong deterrent threat against Chinese military activities," he notes.

    "And this is precisely the outcome that the Obama administration (and the US defense industrial complex) wanted when it lifted the arms embargo on Vietnam," the US academic stresses.

    That means that the US covert hybrid war has entered a new phase, experts note.

    It is no secret that Washington is trying to use its allies in the Asia Pacific to pressure Beijing into geopolitical concessions. The South China Sea is the issue of a primary importance used by the Obama administration as an apple of discord to undermine Beijing's positions in the region.

    "The US power in the region rests on its ability to prevent China from having positive relations with its neighbors in the region. As usual, human rights and democracy created a pretext for the preconceived US strategy for the region. It's about preventing these countries from making their own decisions," American political analyst Eric Draitser told Radio Sputnik's Loud & Clear host Brian Becker.

    Therefore the US-backed Philippines filed a lawsuit against China in The Hague over the South China Sea dispute, regardless of Beijing's vocal protest.

    What adds to the peculiarity of the situation is that Vietnam shares the same ideology and political system with China: it is a Communist state.

    However, "when the US has an urgent need to contain China in the South China Sea, the standards of its so-called human rights can be relaxed," Global Times remarks.

    It is unclear how Washington is planning to make the Communist Hanoi a US bulwark against China in the region, especially given the US and Vietnam's controversial past.

    Anyway, Beijing is not interested in fanning the flames in the region: its primary goal is to launch its New Silk Road project aimed to facilitate economic growth and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. 


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    arms embargo, arms deal, military buildup, hybrid warfare, People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), Vietnamese Communist Party, People's Liberation Army Air Force, Vietnamese Navy, Barack Obama, South China Sea, China, US, Vietnam
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