I would like to call the US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink as informally as Americans “together” when they have known each other for a long time. Hope “Dan” does not object. The Ambassador did not tell many stories, in my opinion, they were as important as what he said. The problem is whether other people can understand or not …
Compliments for Ambassador Kritenbrink have been flooding Vietnamese media over the past few months. Is it necessary to repeat all those “compliment” words here? The things that “Dan” confides or keeps before leaving Hanoi, mostly have a common sound: Encouraging Vietnamese identity and resistance to the expansion of foreign countries.
Only the sky is the limit
Hanoi could be satisfied with Ambassador Kritenbrink’s April 13 statement at the farewell reception hosted by the US-ASEAN Business Council that the sky is the limit for Vietnam-US relations only. “Dan” also said that under President Biden, the US attaches great importance to strengthening relations with allies and partners. “Dan” affirmed that Vietnam is one of America’s best friends, emphasizing the tightened defense cooperation with the first US aircraft carrier visiting Vietnam after the war and last year had two such visits.
The US and Vietnam have signed trade deals worth $45 billion so far and the number is likely to be much higher this year. Trade is a prominent aspect of the bilateral relationship. Vietnam is the fastest-growing export market for the US and the US is Vietnam’s largest export market: US exports to Vietnam are $30 billion by 2020 and US imports in 2020 are $79.6 billion. In 2019, US investment in Vietnam was $2.6 billion.
But the Report on Vietnam-US relations by the US Congressional Research Service (CRS), a bipartisan body serving the legislature, confirms that the persecution of human rights in Vietnam has increased in recent years. Although, in an interview in Zing newspaper late last year, Daniel Kritenbrink did not mention any human rights violations that are supposed to be happening in Vietnam so far when answering a lot of questions from communication “right margin.”
President Biden has pledged to restore the US role as defender of democracy and human rights worldwide and judge countries by their records of human rights issues. But Biden still has to weigh between fighting for human rights issues in countries and counterbalancing China’s growing influence.
Referring to bilateral relations, on December 24, 2020, Mr. Kritenbrink said: “We focus on the content and degree of cooperation between the two countries. The strategic nature of the Vietnam-US relationship is reflected in the way we approach the world and the process of working together. Therefore, I am not too fussy about my name. Many Americans must also think so. ”
The story “Dan” does not tell this is why the Vietnam-US relations are so important, but over the past many generations, the US ambassadors have not achieved a “brainchild” of the strategists from policymaking agencies in both countries. “US – Vietnam Strategic Partnership” is still “hanging” after all. Yes, maybe “Dan” is not too smart about the name, but Vietnamese people think “if a name is right, then the language will be favorable.”
Why “name is not right?” The report dated February 16, 2021, by the National Institute of Public Policy Research said that the relationship would have grown even more, but the two countries were limited by pressure from China. Vietnamese leaders still think that they should not “be friendly” to the US too much, because China simply does not want it.
Second – and this is important – still many Vietnamese leaders “doubt the long-term US goal of wanting to see the end of the Vietnamese Communist Party’s monopoly power through “peaceful evolution.” The mentality of “peaceful evolution” is outdated thinking from China, which aims to deny important human values such as freedom and democracy.
The writer of this article is startled when a YouTube (of unknown origin) has “bent” the comment of “Dan“. The original sentence of “Dan” is quoted by that status: The most serious situation in international relations is when the truth belongs to the strong, without the law, the strongest, the most aggressive will always win. We actually have a law-based international order, where states must play by the rules …
Finished quote, the character proclaims the name Son Ngoc St. explained that the reason Mr. Kritenbrink said so was that, in the past, the US used the strength of the strong to “feed” the Republic of Vietnam regime, but in the end, the United States still failed in Vietnam. Admittedly this commentator has made progress, not calling the Republic of Vietnam a “fool” but alas, the above quote is not “Dan” that is critical of the US government.
The message is “Dan” wants to give comrades “foreign countries” in the way of dealing with Vietnam today. Since last year, at a press conference in Hanoi on July 2, 2020, Ambassador Kritenbrink affirmed that the US did not want ASEAN or any other country to choose sides.
“What we expect is that countries soon realize that they want stable order and the benefits of complying with international law. We oppose large nations that bully others and expect cooperation to promote peace and the rule of law. We welcome China to join efforts to ensure the world order.”
At the end of October 2020, another journalist who wanted to “act” the stance also “rocked” the Ambassador when he asked “Dan” to comment on the opinion that: “When we need friends and allies to ensure protecting its interests and maintaining the number one role in the world, America is always ready to reach out. But when it is no longer needed, the US is willing to deal on the back of an ally, which costs small countries.
“Dan” has been “surfing” quite spectacularly as he put aside the spear to confidently reply: “The core of our foreign policy is that we have an interest in getting more allies, partners and friends, self-control and prosperity. Perhaps no other country in the world has invested and brought prosperity to many different regions of the world like America.”
“No study, no conscience
“Dan” personally donated the above inscription in his visit to Van Mieu – Quoc Tu Giam before November 20 last year with many symbols. The US Ambassador has borrowed valuable lessons from the way of seeing people (to understand the country), passed down through thousands of years of history, showing respect for Vietnamese cultural traditions in particular and East Asia in general.
That cultural tradition as well as the exchanges between these ethnic groups is the source of the national consciousness of Vietnam. Is it that Ambassador Kritenbrink has put his faith in the enduring values of nationalism throughout space-time. By proactively adopting, that nationalism has been built up and strengthened through the dynasties, and “Dan” hopes that Vietnam will thereby grow by itself, become more resilient and more prosperous.
Also last year, Ambassador Kritenbrink did something unprecedented, including visiting the Truong Son Cemetery in Quang Tri province and the Martyrs Cemetery in Ho Chi Minh City. And he also came to burn incense at the Saigon Military Cemetery. The Facebook page of the US Embassy in Vietnam shows a short newsletter with four pictures of “Dan” at Bien Hoa Cemetery.
Visiting both Saigon and Bien Hoa cemeteries on the same day (June 21) is to “pay homage” to all the soldiers who died from both sides. FB US Embassy wrote: “When we heal the war together, our trust and friendship will be stronger and stronger. As part of a healing process with a spirit of reconciliation and mutual respect, we show our respect to all those who died, regardless of their side.”
Of all the explanations, Mr. Kritenbrink did not say anything about the upcoming work in Washington DC, as an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific affairs. Until now, this position has often been reserved by the US President for US Ambassadors in Tokyo or Beijing.
With the experience accumulated in Vietnam and fluent in Chinese and Japanese again, Ambassador Kritenbrink is now nominated for the highest US diplomatic position in the region, Vietnam profile is unknown. Then what position will Vietnam have in the work related to the “Indo-Pacific Strategy” (IPS) of the “Quartet“? While “Quad” really wants Vietnam to become a “close member” (shadow member).
Please wait, see you later!