From ‘Rebalance to Asia’ to ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’: The Development of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership

by Bich T. Tran

AsiaPacific Issues, No. 141

Publisher: Washington: East-West Center
Publication Date: November 2019
Binding: paper
Pages: 8
Free Download: PDF


Under the Obama administration’s Rebalance to Asia, Vietnam gradually gained importance in U.S. foreign policy as the two countries formed a “comprehensive partnership” in 2013. Despite the Trump administration’s America First policy, the United States prioritizes its partnerships with Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries in its Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. While a common concern about China’s behavior in the South China Sea has facilitated the growth of U.S.-Vietnam relations, the foundation of the relationship is cooperation on Vietnam War legacy issues. The two countries have made remarkable progress in advancing diplomatic, economic, and defense ties regardless of remaining challenges. The year 2020 would be ideal for the United States and Vietnam to upgrade the relationship to a “strategic partnership”: it marks the 25th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations, Hanoi’s ASEAN chairmanship, and the start of Vietnam’s term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.