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Vietnam, Philippines Sign Coast Guard Pact That is Sure to Anger China

Philippine's Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos Jr and Vietnam's President Võ Văn Thưởng attend a welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on January 30, 2024. Nhac NGUYEN / AFP

Vietnam and the Philippines pledged to work more closely together on maritime security issues in the South China Sea as part of a broader effort to push back against China’s assertive territorial claims in the region.

Visiting Philippine President Feridnand Marcos, Jr. wrapped up a two two-day visit to Hanoi on Tuesday that culminated with the signing of a pair of memoranda calling for “incident prevention in the South China Sea” and “maritime cooperation” between their respective coast guards.

While both the Philippines and Vietnam have their own disputes over contested islands in the South China Sea, the two countries are seemingly far more concerned about China’s expansive claims that account for 80% of the sea’s territory.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not yet formally responded to Marcos’ visit to Hanoi and the new security pacts between the two Southeast Asian countries. But when they do respond, it will almost certainly be quite critical.

On Monday, the Chinese Communist Party-run tabloid Global Times provided a preview of Beijing’s expected reaction when it warned that any “united front” against China will lead to conflict if China’s interests are compromised.

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT? Marcos’ warm reception in Hanoi this week is the latest example of Vietnam’s skillful “bamboo diplomacy” that simultaneously prioritizes relations with China while also bolstering ties with Beijing’s rivals in Manila, Tokyo, and Washington, among others.

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