The Biden administration is reportedly in advanced discussions with Vietnam over a monumental arms deal. The deal, if it materializes, could potentially provoke China, considering the geopolitical implications.
The proposed arms transfer, which would be the most extensive in history between the erstwhile Cold War adversaries, was confirmed by two individuals privy to the matter, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Under the proposed deal, the United States could supply Vietnam with advanced defense equipment, including fighter jets, missiles, and drones. The deal, however, does not include nuclear weapons or related technology.
"If the deal goes through, it will signify a shift in Vietnam's defense procurement strategy from Russia, its traditional supplier, towards the US," said Dr. John Park, a Southeast Asia expert at the Harvard Kennedy School. "At the same time, it could potentially strain US-China relations."
Relations between China and Vietnam have been strained over territorial disputes in the South China Sea. The proposed arms deal could escalate tensions by shifting the regional balance of power.
The move is seen as part of the Biden administration's strategy to strengthen alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region to counter China's growing influence.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Vietnam's military expenditure has nearly tripled in the past decade, making it one of the top 15 defense spenders worldwide. The proposed arms deal would further bolster Vietnam's military capabilities.
However, the Biden administration has also emphasized the importance of human rights, and it remains to be seen how Vietnam's patchy record in this area might impact the finalization of the agreement.
The deal is still under negotiation and has not been finalized. The US State Department declined to comment on the prospective arms transfer, stating that it does not comment on ongoing negotiations or potential arms sales before formal notification to Congress.
The proposed arms deal, if it goes through, would mark a significant shift in Vietnam's defense procurement strategy and could potentially reshape the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific region.