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Amid Concerns Over East Sea, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Visit US This Month

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will begin a visit to the United States on May 29, culminating in a stop at the White House on May 31.

VnExpress reports that Phuc's trip follows an invitation from US President Donald Trump. The two leaders will discuss bilateral relations and regional cooperation.

Phuc won't be the first Vietnamese official to visit the White House this year, as foreign minister Pham Binh Minh met with Trump last month. However, he is the first Southeast Asian leader to head to the US capital.

The visit comes as regional leaders are working to gauge the Trump administration's stance on key issues such as the East Sea and China's involvement in territorial disputes. The heads of Thailand, the Philippines and Singapore have also been invited to the White House.

Zachary Abuza, a Southeast Asia analyst based in Washington, told VnExpress, "Southeast Asian nations really want to know that the US is committed to peace and security in the region, and that it is not just a chit to be played with the Chinese."

The US has lost standing in the eyes of many in the region since President Trump took office in January. The news source cites a recent study by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore which showed that 75% of respondents, mainly government officials, businesspeople and academics, see China, not the US, as the dominant player over the next decade.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of respondents view the US less favorably than at the start of the year. 

Vietnamese leaders hope Phuc's visit will shed light on how Trump plans to interact with the country, and Southeast Asia as a whole.

"Key tenets of their strategy for dealing with China, the TPP, or continued US engagement, are now really in doubt," Abuza, the analyst, told VnExpress. "No country in the past few years did more than Vietnam to engage the US and ensure that it was committed to regional peace, prosperity and freedom of the seas than Vietnam. They have a lot riding on this."

President Trump is scheduled to visit Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang in November.

[Photo via Bao Cong Thuong]


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