HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam -- China's continued military expansion has placed Vietnam squarely on the back foot, prompting Hanoi to engage in a delicate balancing act meant to shore up its own regional influence and allay the fears of an anti-Beijing faction at home.
To achieve that, Hanoi has sought to appease its own generals and enhance national defense through a series of major arms deals with Russia worth billions of dollars. The most notable weapons purchases are six Kilo-class submarines and up to 20 Su-30 fighter-bombers. Hanoi is also busy enticing Russia into its oil and gas industry.
Those moves were quickly followed by a low-level yet historic visit by the USNS Richard E. Byrd, which became only the second U.S. ship to put into a Vietnamese port for repairs. The visit was widely viewed by analysts as a fresh sign of the quiet cooperation emerging from improved relations between the two former enemies.