FirstFT: Vietnam and US boost ties in move to counter China

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Good morning. Vietnam has upgraded its relationship with the US to the highest level, bringing the former foes closer in the face of Beijing’s growing assertiveness.

The US signed a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with the south-east Asian country on Sunday after President Joe Biden arrived in Hanoi from New Delhi, where he had attended the G20 summit.

The symbolic but significant change, which follows years of lobbying by Washington, raises the US by two levels to the top status in Vietnam’s bilateral ties hierarchy. Vietnam had long avoided the move for fear of upsetting Beijing. 

The upgraded partnership is as much about Chinese blunders as it is about US persistence, said Peter Mumford, a south-east Asia analyst for Eurasia Group. 

“There’s been some strategic self-harm by China,” Mumford said, citing a step-up in intimidation of Vietnamese vessels in the South China Sea as one example. “This is an unusual and significant step for Vietnam and it is a sign of how strong Hanoi’s desire is to counterbalance ties with China.”

Here’s more on Vietnam’s “decisive step into the US orbit.”

Here’s what else I’m keeping tabs on today:

  • Anniversaries: The 22nd anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the US. Today also marks 50 years since the coup in Chile that ousted President Salvador Allende and put general Augusto Pinochet in power.

  • Taiwan war game: The US House of Representatives China committee plans to hold a Taiwan war game with financial and business executives in New York today, in an effort to raise awareness about the risks attached to Americans investing in China.

  • Bangladesh: French president Emmanuel Macron arrives in Dhaka for a state visit, after attending the G20 summit in New Delhi.

Five more top stories

1. US, EU and other western allies agreed to remove condemnation of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine from the G20 meeting’s communique, in exchange for pledges from all 20 states — including Russia and China — to respect territorial integrity and work towards a “just peace” for Kyiv. Our dispatch from the New Delhi summit reveals why western nations accepted a “climbdown” on Ukraine.

2. Rescuers combed through collapsed buildings in mountain villages in Morocco’s High Atlas region on Sunday as they searched for survivors of an earthquake that has killed more than 2,000 people. Aid workers said the next two days would be critical after the 6.8 magnitude quake struck on Friday night, damaging parts of the ancient city of Marrakech and devastating villages in a mountainous region of the kingdom. Read the full story.

3. Joe Biden is nearing a decision on sending long-range missiles to Ukraine. The US has long been wary of Ukraine’s request to supply it with so-called ATACMS, a tactical ballistic missile with a range of up to 300km, over concerns about limited stocks and whether it could be used to strike Russian territory, escalating the conflict. But Biden has faced mounting pressure in Washington to approve the transfer of the long-range missiles to Kyiv.

4. Exclusive: PwC is planning to give up tens of millions of dollars of consulting work for its US audit clients to reduce the risk of conflicts of interest, challenging its rival Big Four firms to follow suit. The accounting firm has begun to tell clients it will stop offering them some advisory services, even though they are permitted under US rules, as part of a wider revamp of its audit work.

5. Cybercriminals in Turkey have teamed up with recently arrived Russian émigré hackers to flood a once moribund online marketplace with tens of millions of newly stolen personal credentials. Thousands of men, many of them trained software engineers, fled Russia for Turkey last September after Vladimir Putin ordered military conscription for the war in Ukraine. Here’s how Russian fraudsters have given a Turkish cyber crime hub a new lease of life.

Deep dive

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