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Spratlys > News > English News > July 2005

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HANOI, U.S. TALKS FOCUS ON CHINA (Bangkok Post, Bangkok)
Monday July 4, 2:30 PM
Asian editorial excerpts
(Kyodo) _ Selected editorial excerpts from the Asia-Pacific Press:

The visit to the United States by Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai was largely written off as a quaint occasion for the two nations to bridge their animosity from a bitter war that ended 30 years ago. But Mr. Khai and President George W. Bush were more concerned with laying the foundation for the future than delving into the past.

America and Vietnam see eye to eye on a number of important issues. One is the importance of trade and globalization. The other is the rise of the Chinese superpower and just how Southeast Asia and the world will manage affairs with the ascending dragon.

The premier is at the top of Vietnam's first post-war leadership to recognize how hopelessly out of touch with reality were the old Communist men who led the nation's military victory.

Serious differences remain between Hanoi and regional neighbors. Vietnam has refused so far to sign a declaration to avoid armed conflict in the disputed Spratly Islands. ADVERTISEMENT

Mr. Bush agreed during a fruitful Washington meeting to push the application of Vietnam to join the World Trade Organization. In an important nod to America, Mr. Khai agreed to exchange intelligence on terrorism and organized crime.

But as Beijing becomes a richer, stronger, more assertive world power, neighbors pay more attention. India, Vietnam and the United States share some apprehension over the vision of China as a superpower.

Vietnam clearly has come to share the concept that the United States must remain as an active power in Asia as a counterweight to the rising dragon. Vietnam is wary of China because of a long history of confrontations, perceived colonialism and wars as recently as 1979, when Beijing sought to "teach Vietnam a lesson" for invading Cambodia.

It now appears likely that Hanoi will offer the United States use of the highly attractive military base at Cam Ranh Bay. Washington has correctly put off all such suggestions. The United States already shows the flag continuously in Southeast Asia, including with visits by warships to Vietnam.

After it was ousted from its Thailand airbases in 1976 and bases in the Philippines in 1992, the United States configured its Pacific defense force to operate without permanent facilities, and this works well.

In its military response to the Dec. 26 tsunami, Washington reopened facilities at U-tapao airbase quickly and efficiently. It is not necessary to confront China or public opinion by opening more bases. (July 4)