GOOD MORNING VIETNAM – What the rise of China has wrought:
In Vietnam’s capital Hanoi there are lots of museums about past wars the Vietnamese have fought, including against the French but especially against the Americans.
The B-52 Victory Museum is strewn with broken pieces of fuselages and tails from downed U.S. aircraft. What’s missing are the visitors. Eighty-two-year-old Pham Hong Thuy — sitting alone watching after his grandson — explains why.
“The war ended decades ago,” says Pham, who fought the Americans at the 1968 Battle of Khe Sanh. “People around the ages of 20, 30 or under 40, they do not know much about the war, they don’t care about the war,” he says.
“The U.S. and the Vietnam are good friends now,” he adds. “And the war is in the past.”
The arrival of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, at Vietnam’s port city of Danang is a reminder of that growing friendship. It’s the first visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier since the end of the war in 1975, and it comes amid rising tensions in the region over China’s aggressive territorial expansion in the South China Sea.
As the article says, “The site [Danang] is heavy with symbolism. It’s the same port city where U.S. combat troops first landed to support South Vietnam’s fight against the communist north in March 1965. It’s also the closest Vietnamese city to the disputed islands and waters of the South China Sea — or the East Sea, as Vietnam calls it.”
All this delights, Nguyen Duc Huy, an 88-year-old retired major general:
His home in Hanoi is decorated with photos, including one of him meeting Cuba’s Fidel Castro from 1973 in Quang Tri province during Vietnam’s war against the U.S.
The general says he joined the army in 1947 and fought the French, the Americans, the Cambodians and against China twice. The first time was in 1979, during the monthlong border war China launched against Vietnam to punish it for invading Cambodia. The second time was during the mid-1980s, when the two countries skirmished repeatedly along Vietnam’s northern border.
“We welcome the visit of such a mighty show of force by a friend,” he says. “A show of force that’s also a warning to China.” He says that China and Vietnam are now friends — in theory — but “they continue to take our islands and ocean whenever they have a chance. And they even continue to want our land,” he says.
Changing geo-politics make for some fascinating re-alignments.