Vietnam – evolution of the situation in the region and its relations with the powers. In the shadow of the dispute in South China Sea
Introduction of Doi Moi economic reforms at the 6th National Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam was successful owing to the changes in the field of the foreign policy. The main rationale in this policy was multilateralization and improvement and intensification of the economic cooperation and political ties with the great powers. The political attention has continued to be focused on the East Asia region, primarily on the ASEAN. In this scheme Vietnam plays proactive role. Countries from the region remain the biggest source of investments, being directly interested in maintaining regional stability and multilayered cooperation. Regardless of the ability to accomplish political goals, Vietnam seeks to enhance its position through the cooperation with the major regional economies. However, the policy of being a friend of all countries has its limitations. The most pertaining among them is the South China Sea dispute which induces Vietnam’s greatest diplomatic effort vis-a-vis China. However, in the practical terms, even the verdict of the Hague Tribunal stating that China cannot claim the disputed islands on the basis of the historical arguments did not contribute to any important change in the matter. Although the verdict meets the Vietnamese expectations, yet it did not spark enthusiasm within all of the Vietnam’s allies, including Russia and Australia. For all these states and Vietnam itself, China is an important political and economic partner. To sharpen relations with China would not be a desired solution for any of these states. Thus, one may consider the South China Sea as a problem to be solved between the United States and China, around which more or less voiced sympathies of the regional players are being focused. In its endeavour Vietnam is backed by the United States, although the American and Vietnamese interests are not always confluent. Growth of pro-American sympathies is evident in the social surveys. However, Vietnam’s other regional partners and experts in regional security are rather reserved as to the political intentions of the United States. Notwithstanding those determinants and complex network of relationships, the dispute constitutes a great threat to the regional security.