Vietnam and the United States are to hold joint naval exercises, Hanoi said today as regional tensions simmer over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“The coming joint exercise between the Vietnamese and US navies is an annual event,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Nguyen Phuong Nga told reporters.
She did not give a date for the training but said it would “promote relations between the two navies, carry out humanitarian activities and exchange concerning professional matters, as well as search and rescue operations.”
Former wartime enemies the US and Vietnam normalized relations in 1995 and have been rapidly building relations across a wide range of areas – in part due to a spike in tensions between Beijing and Hanoi.
US Navy ships have occasionally visited Vietnam in recent years.
Tensions between China and other claimants to strategically important waters in the South China Sea – home to two potentially oil-rich archipelagos, the Paracels and the Spratlys – have escalated in recent weeks.
Since late May Vietnam has twice accused China of violating its 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone and interfering with oil survey ships.
Nga said Vietnam was not aware of any further incidents, and reiterated the country’s resolve to settle disputes “through peaceful means based on international law”.
Chinese state media said on Thursday that China and Vietnam conducted two days of joint naval patrols earlier this week in the Gulf of Tonkin as part of an annual plan of “friendly exchanges” between the two militaries.
On Wednesday, China reportedly warned the United States to stay out of the maritime spat.
Vice foreign minister Cui Tiankai said neighbouring countries, including Vietnam, were responsible for recent incidents in the disputed waters and dismissed calls for Washington to play a greater role in resolving tensions.
“I believe some countries now are playing with fire. And I hope the US won’t be burned by this fire,” Cui was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying.
Just great. We start to get out of one country and are starting with another.