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Is lifting arms embargo to Vietnam a precursor to confrontation with China?

Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative / UNCLOS
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This Around the World article is also an editorial

OKLAHOMA CITY – While the US corporate media paints a 70’s-styled, day-glo smiley face on President Obama’s “pivot to Asia” tour this week - which will conclude in Japan with a non-apology about our senseless incineration of tens of thousands of Japanese citizens with two atomic bombs - his stop in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi deserves scrutiny.

As William J. Duiker wrote in his biography of Vietnam’s Communist revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, Ho Chi Minh: A Life, that right before the U.S. ramped up its role in waging war against the Vietnamese people following the false-flag “Gulf of Tonkin Incident” in 1964, Ho wanted to make it clear to the imperialist “aggressors” in Washington that “the Vietnamese people were determined to unify their country and were willing to endure enormous sacrifices to achieve that end.”

And we all saw how that turned out. It was a humiliating defeat for America’s massive military might, from which we never fully recovered, despite continued aggression in Asia and elsewhere by an all-volunteer military that is increasingly worn out.

When the Vietnam War ended 11 years later, in 1975, tens of thousands of Vietnamese military and civilian people had been killed and over 50,000 American troops. It’s only now, 41 years later, that the U.S. is trying to “normalize” relations between the two nations, as attempts are being made to put the bad blood behind them.

While Obama was praised for lifting the arms embargo with Vietnam, it is clear that the US is looking to secure support from potential allies if things heat up in the South China Sea where potential flashpoints could be the Scarborough Shoal or the Spratly Islands (or other reefs and island) where China contends they control those islands and reefs and where military operations are being conducted.

Vietnam disputes China’s claims, and as CNBC reported, the end to the embargo has an upside for the Communist nation in Southeast Asia, meaning this would “come from Vietnam’s desire to maintain security over its portions of the South China Sea.

Defense analyst Christopher Higgins told CNBC: “If you look at Vietnam, they are key in the South China Sea for our security strategy in that area,” he said, adding that Vietnam is also “really key in terms of other agreements” like the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (the controversial TPP) multilateral trade deal.

That deal, of course, is highlighted (as it was by American diplomat to Vietnam Bryn Cain West, in this Red Dirt Report article) by the US media as a counterbalance to China’s economic influence.

“Vietnam has a lot to gain being a member of TPP,” West told the Bricktown Rotary Club in March. “It will be great for Vietnam.”

And as Ivan Eland wrote at Antiwar.com: “The pivot is an attempt by the United States to contain China by supporting countries in East Asia against its rising power and also to augment U.S. military forces and bases in the region.”

And what is preventing the “pivot” to be completed entirely is due to America’s continued “nation-building wars in the greater Middle East for a decade-and-a-half.”

Interestingly, in the aforementioned book on Ho Chi Minh’s life, in approximately 1964, Ho was writing under a pseudonym where he “lambasted the United States for its aggressive policies all over the world and its domestic problems at home.”

It would seem little has changed in 50 years as we enter the final months of “peace candidate” Obama’s administration.

Meanwhile, Bill Van Auken, writing at the World Socialist Web Site, wrote that Obama’s “gesture” toward Hanoi is “aimed at drawing Vietnam more closely into the orbit of US imperialism and the Obama administration’s ‘pivot to Asia.’’

Adds Van Auken, rather soberly: “(Obama) seeks in Vietnam, as in Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Australia and elsewhere in Asia, the creation of a string of military alliances and bases to contain and ultimately wage war against China.”

That, of course, would be catastrophic not for China and that region, but for the entire world.

And with the militaristic U.S. power structure provoking tensions between China and neighboring nations over the control of the seemingly inconsequential but strategically important islands and reefs in the South China Sea, cooler heads must prevail going forward.

Afterall, Vietnam (who has close trading ties with China), has quite a tightrope to walk in the coming months and years as the threat of war in the region looms ever larger.

Some things to think about as we approach Memorial Day 2016.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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