US Defense Secretary Austin to visit Vietnam on July 28-29: Foreign ministry

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will make an official trip to Vietnam on July 28-29 at the invitation of the Vietnamese Minister of National Defence Phan Van Giang, spokesperson for the Vietnamese foreign ministry Le Thi Thu Hang announced on Thursday.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. — AFP/VNA Photo
The visit, part of a Southeast Asian tour with stops in the Philippines and Singapore in addition to Vietnam starting this Friday, is the first one to the region by a top official of the Biden-Harris administration.

“The visit to Vietnam by the US Secretary of Defense would contribute to the strengthening of friendship and trust between our two peoples and armies, implementing the agreement between the two countries’ high-level leaders, and furthering the framework of Vietnam-US comprehensive partnership,” Hang noted, while not affirming specifically whether the South China Sea issue (known in Vietnam as the East Sea) would be high on the visit’s agenda as speculated.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions in place amid complicated outbreaks in the capital city of Hanoi, where the US official is expected to have talks with Vietnamese senior leaders, the events and meetings will only be open to Vietnamese and American press members, according to the foreign ministry.

UK warships

In response to the announcement from the UK that it would send two warships to be permanently based in "Asian waters” as part of the country’s Indo-Pacific commitment, Hang reiterated Vietnam’s consistent position that all activities of countries at sea “must strictly adhere to the provisions of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.”

Countries should also contribute to the maintenance of peace, security, stability, and order and uphold the rule of law in line with the aspiration of the region and international community, the spokesperson said.

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