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US 'charting clear course aimed at containing China'

By WANG JIAN in Hanoi and MO JINGXI in Beijing (China Daily) Updated: 2016-05-24 03:31

US 'charting clear course aimed at containing China'

US President Barack Obama attends a news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace Compound in Hanoi on Monday. CARLOS BARRIA / REUTERS

The United States clearly intends to check China by taking advantage of Hanoi's maritime disputes with Beijing, according to Chinese analysts.

They were speaking on Monday as the US extended an olive branch to Vietnam by lifting a decades-old arms embargo.

Washington is attempting to draw Vietnam into its circle of influence in politics, security and economic affairs through US President Barack Obama's first visit to the country, they said.

But the analysts added that Vietnam will remain cautious and reserved toward the US.

Obama, who started a three-day visit to Vietnam on Monday, announced the removal of the weapons embargo at a news conference. He said the decision is aimed at eliminating a "lingering vestige of the Cold War".

"At this stage, both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation," Obama said, adding that he expects deepening cooperation between their militaries.

His visit comes 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War, and he is the third US president to visit the country since ties were restored in 1995. Obama has made a strategic "rebalancing'' toward the Asia-Pacific region a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

At a state luncheon in Hanoi, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang toasted Obama's first visit to the country as the "arrival of a warm spring after a cold winter".

The two nations also reaffirmed efforts to ratify and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that has struggled to gain traction in the US Congress during an election year.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Monday that China hopes the developing ties between the US and Vietnam will be conducive to regional peace and stability.

Fan Jishe, a researcher of US strategies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the situation demonstrates Washington's firmness in advancing its Asia-Pacific rebalancing strategy.

"An important element of this strategy is developing diplomatic and economic relations with countries in the region," Fan said, adding that Vietnam is now the priority.

Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said it is obvious that the US aims to contain China by taking advantage of Hanoi's territorial disputes with Beijing.

"Vietnam is also seeking support from countries outside the region to exert pressure on China over the disputes," Su said.

But the analysts said Vietnam will not side with the US without reservations, given its interdependency with China in terms of trade and economic affairs.

Su said Obama's visit offers an opportunity for the two countries to promote their relations based on certain common interests, such as countering China.

"But Hanoi will by no means behave at Washington's command," he added.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this story.

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