July 1, 2008

HARRISONBURG— Today, in a commentary for National Interest online, the web edition of the foreign policy journal The National Interest, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, highlights Vietnam’s continuing transformation into a major player on the global stage.

Noting the coincidence of both the handover by the United States to Vietnam today of the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s official visit to the White House last week, Dr. Pham cites a number of reasons why it would be in America’s interests to forge stronger ties with the Southeast Asian nation, quoting in agreement a recent Wall Street Journal Asia commentary by Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman articulating a United States policy towards Asia that includes strengthening and deepening relationships with countries like Vietnam with which “promising partnerships have been forged in recent years.” Among the positive factors discussed in Dr. Pham’s article are Vietnam’s robust economic growth which, unlike mainland China and other places, has included what the World Bank has called “one of the most successful anti-poverty campaigns ever”; its energy production; and its heightened diplomatic profile.

While the private sector has led the way—in 2006, bilateral U.S.-Vietnam trade totaled $9.6 billion and more than 75,000 Americans visited the country—some in the U.S. government, especially in the Pentagon, have also seized the strategic initiative. The article concludes by arguing:

After meeting with President Bush last week, Prime Minister Dung said his government “took note with great pleasure of rapid development in the Vietnam-U.S. relationship toward a friendly and constructive partnership, multifaceted cooperation on the basis of equality and mutual respect and mutual benefit.” No matter who wins in November, the next administration will need to build on this foundation, reinforcing ties with a country which was a dogged adversary in war but which, in peace, has proven an increasingly significant geopolitical actor.

The full text of Dr. Pham’s commentary, “ Hanoi’s Coming-Out Party,” can be accessed by clicking here.