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Putin arrives in Vietnam, which considers Russia as counterbalance to US and China

Putin arrives in Vietnam, which considers Russia as counterbalance to US and China Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo: Getty Images)

Vietnam has welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin, emphasizing its long-standing loyalty to Moscow despite criticism from the US. Hanoi sees Russia as a counterbalance to the US and China, which threatens Vietnam's sovereignty in the South China Sea, according to Bloomberg.

Putin arrived in Hanoi on Thursday from North Korea, where he signed a comprehensive strategic partnership agreement with Kim Jong Un.

"The visit demonstrates that Vietnam actively implements its foreign policy with the spirit of independence, self-reliance, diversification, multilateralism," the statement on the Vietnamese government's website said.

The US Embassy in Hanoi stated on Monday that no country should provide Putin with a platform to advance his aggressive war and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities.

It is expected that the Russian President will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and meet with officials, including Communist Party head Nguyen Phu Trong, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, and President To Lam.

What interests Vietnam about Russia

Vietnam has long relied on Russia for weapons, including aircraft and submarines. However, after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Vietnam has refrained from purchasing Russian weapons due to concerns about Western sanctions, said Carl Thayer, honorary professor at the University of New South Wales in Australia.

Hanoi will seek assurances that Russia's increasingly close ties with China will not come at Vietnam's expense, he believes.

Vietnam's exports to Russia last year amounted to less than $2 billion, compared to $97 billion to the US Nevertheless, Hanoi sees Moscow as a counterbalance to Beijing and Washington. Hanoi views the US as an ideological adversary, while China's claims to waters near Vietnam's coast threaten its sovereignty, said Alexander Vuving, an expert on Asia at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies in Hawaii.

"Russia can alleviate pressure from both the US and China by giving Vietnam support. They can get arms from Russia. State-owned Russian companies for many years have been at the forefront of Vietnam’s efforts to protect its sovereignty in the South China Sea," Vuving said.

Although hosting Putin is risky for Vietnamese officials, he noted, they must take the risk and remain loyal to Russia.

Vietnam and Ukraine

Vietnam is among nine countries in Southeast Asia that abstained from condemning Russian violence in Ukraine last year. It maintained a neutral position in the war, calling for diplomacy to resolve the conflict.

The Prime Minister of Vietnam met with the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy last year on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Hiroshima. Many Vietnamese officials and business leaders have been trained in Ukraine and Russia. According to the government of Vietnam, there are about 60,000 Vietnamese living in Russia.

Putin in North Korea

On Tuesday, June 18, Putin arrived for a visit to the capital of North Korea, Pyongyang. The Western press writes that the trip is most likely related to the search for weapons for the war against Ukraine.

In Pyongyang, Putin and Kim Jong Un signed a strategic partnership agreement, which, according to the Russian President, includes mutual assistance in case of aggression against one of the parties to this agreement. However, the text of the document has not yet been published.

The White House has termed Putin's visit to Pyongyang as an expansion of partnership and emphasized that Russia is continuing to gather a coalition against the democratic world.

More details about the visit can be found in the article by RBC-Ukraine.