APARC’s Southeast Asia Program recently hosted the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Dan Kritenbrink, who joined faculty members from the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and other Stanford experts for a roundtable discussion about U.S.-Vietnam relations and U.S. strategy in Southeast Asia.
Ambassador Kritenbrink outlined the priorities of the U.S. Mission Vietnam and commended the Vietnamese leadership on its cooperation on a range of issues that span economic development, nuclear nonproliferation, regional security, and people-to-people ties.
The year 2020 marks a quarter of a century since the United States and Vietnam established diplomatic relations. Vietnam is now the fastest-growing economy in Southeast Asia and has emerged as a U.S. partner in pushing back against Beijing's claims in the South China Sea. Yet there are limits to the partnership, as Vietnam is not a democracy and its communist government, having adopted a hedging strategy, is pursuing a multi-country foreign policy, including advancing defense ties with Russia.
Roundtable participants listening to Ambassador Kritenbrink. Photo credit: Noa Ronkin.
The issues considered during the roundtable discussion with the Ambassador included some of the challenges and opportunities for Vietnam, which has more leverage to engage the region this year as it serves as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It certainly has a full agenda for its chairmanship amid geopolitical tensions in the region, the need to balance the U.S.-China friction, the spread of COVID-19, a slowdown in global trade, and the looming environmental and social impacts posed by the threats to the Mekong river.
Ambassador Kritenbrink began his posting in Vietnam in November 2017 and has served as an American diplomat since 1994. He has completed multiple assignments related to Asia, including the roles of senior advisor for North Korea policy at the Department of State; senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, where he worked on Vietnam and oversaw the negotiation of two Joint Statements regarding the U.S. Comprehensive Partnership with Vietnam; seven years in senior roles in the U.S. Embassy Beijing; and three prior diplomatic postings in Japan.