US Diplomat Visits Vietnam After Putin’s State Visit

A US diplomat has claimed that trust between Washington and Hanoi is at an “all-time high” despite the Russian president’s visit

A senior US envoy has traveled to Vietnam for diplomatic talks just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a state visit to the Southeast Asian country.

Daniel Kritenbrink, the assistant US secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific affairs, insisted on Saturday that his trip was not related to the Russian delegation’s visit on Thursday. In fact, he told reporters in Hanoi that trust between the US and Vietnam is at an “all-time high.”

Kritenbrink’s comments came less than one week after the US Embassy in Hanoi rebuked the Vietnamese government for daring to host talks with Putin at a time when the Russia-Ukraine conflict is raging. “No country should give Putin a platform to promote his war of aggression and otherwise allow him to normalize his atrocities,” an embassy spokesperson told Reuters on Monday.

The US diplomat sounded a different tone on Saturday, saying the main reason for his meeting with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son was to support the relationship between the two countries. “Only Vietnam can decide how best to safeguard its sovereignty and advance its interests,” Kritenbrink said at a press briefing.

Putin held talks with Vietnamese President To Lam, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and other leaders in Hanoi. He thanked Vietnam for its “balanced and objective stance on the Ukraine crisis,” and the two governments signed 11 agreements strengthening their “comprehensive strategic partnership.” The pacts called for increased cooperation in such areas as nuclear technology, offshore oil exploration and combating epidemics.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has tried unsuccessfully to cripple the Russian economy and isolate Moscow diplomatically through a sanctions campaign since the Ukraine crisis began in February 2022.

Washington began normalizing diplomatic relations with Hanoi in the 1990s, two decades after ending a catastrophic war that left upward of 1 million Vietnamese dead and countless more maimed. Washington’s diplomatic status in Hanoi was upgraded during Biden’s visit to the country last September.

Kritenbrink, who arrived in Hanoi the day after Putin left, said he wanted to continue pushing the US-Vietnam relationship forward and making sure that agreements between the two governments were being implemented. “We continue to believe that the US-Vietnam partnership has never been stronger,” he claimed.