Speaking from Vietnam on Sunday, U.S. President Donald Trump offered to mediate on territorial claims in the South China Sea.
“If I can help mediate or arbitrate, please let me know,” Trump said in comments at a meeting in Hanoi with Vietnam’s president, Tran Dai Quang. “I‘m a very good mediator and arbitrator,” he said. “I've done plenty of it from both sides.”
With the recent softening of the Philippines stance, Vietnam stands as the most vocal opponent of China’s claims and its island-building activities. Quang has said though that Vietnam believed in handling disputes through peaceful negotiation and on the basis of international laws - which Vietnam says nullify China’s claims.
China has built seven man-made islands in disputed waters, three of them equipped with runways, surface-to-air missiles and radar systems. In July, China pressured Vietnam to stop oil drilling in a disputed area, but relations have improved since then, and Chinese President Xi Jinping also visited Hanoi on Sunday.
Relations between Vietnam and the U.S. have blossomed in the decades since their war ended in 1975. A recent survey put the favorability of the U.S. at 84 percent among Vietnamese, reports Reuters.
During the meeting, Trump was vocal about the U.S. trade deficit, $32 billion last year, and Vietnam’s trade surplus with the U.S. “We make the best equipment. We make the best military gear and planes and anything you can name,” said Trump. “We would like Vietnam to buy from us, and we have to get rid of the trade imbalance.”
Vietnamese and U.S. companies signed MOUs on gas development and equipment such as aircraft engines during Trump’s visit.