Archive for June, 2017

Chinese Officials Overplay Hand at Hanoi Meeting, Get Sent Home Early

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2017 by Ian Pham

South China Sea(Voice of America)

It’s not that impressive, but when you remember that these are the Vietnamese communists we’re talking about, it’s kind of a big deal. Still not that great, though, by the standards of non-garbage nations.

In a nutshell, some Chinese representatives said some things to their Vietnamese hosts in a recent meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city. The hosts didn’t take kindly to the words of their Chinese guests, and as a result, the visitors were sent packing early.

This is newsworthy because it is very uncharacteristic of the Vietnamese communist government to ever show any type of backbone when talking with the Chinese. It’s usually a “yes sir, thank you sir,” and sometimes a “sorry sir,” on the parts of the Vietnamese communists to their Chinese overlords, with the two sides then going on public record saying that “great progress” has been made in “the talks” for “ensuring stability in the region.” In reality, behind these empty cliched words, it’s just China telling their VCP lapdogs what to do next, and the communists in Hanoi nodding their heads in agreement and obedience.

The fact that this is not the case this time, and that someone in the VCP actually had the guts to ask the Chinese to leave is something of a news story for Vietnamese geopolitics in the current era of communist rule.

Below are further details of the Chinese delegation’s early-cancelled trip in Vietnam.

According to Voice of America, Vietnamese edition, Chinese general Fan Changlong and a squad of Chinese military officials came to Vietnam this week to meet with high-ranking members of the Vietnamese Communist Party.

The meeting, officially deemed a continuation of the annual “border defense friendship exchange program,” was supposed to last from June 20-22, but was promptly cancelled due to “private disagreements” that were not specified by either side, according to The Diplomat.

Officially, the Chinese government cite “working arrangements” as reasons for the shortened visit, The New York Times claims. However, analysts believe that deeper issues are afoot.

Reports claim that China appears to be angry with Vietnam for developing closer ties to Japan and the United States. These two nations are both viewed with suspicion and envy by the Chinese. Vietnam’s increased cooperation with these countries is likely interpreted by the Chinese as an affront to their own influence in the region.

Furthermore, Caty Weaver cites government sources claiming that “discussions about the disputed South China Sea” may be the cause of Fan’s shortened visit to Vietnam. Similarly, it is reported by The New York Times that the Chinese representatives’ trip was “unexpectedly cut short… after tempers flared during a closed-door discussion on disputed territories in the South China Sea.”

In response to Vietnam’s surprisingly tougher than usual reaction, China has deployed 40 naval vessels, as well as some military aircraft within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone. Even before Fan’s visit, Beijing moved their infamous Haiyang 981 oil rig back into Vietnam’s EEZ, most likely as a tactic of intimidation to let the communist Vietnamese know that their granddaddy China was on the way.

Analysts assert that possible reasons for China’s extra assertiveness at this time is opportunism due to “the loss of ASEAN momentum in the South China Sea,” and what appears to be “a distracted United States” in the region. Currently, there is much uncertainty regarding President Trump’s policies in the Pacific, and so the Chinese are trying to capitalize on this opportunity and expand their military and geopolitical position.

Increased pressure on Hanoi in the recent meeting is thus simply a continuation of China’s attempt to better its influence in the Pacific. Unfortunately for the Chinese, they pushed too hard this time in their “discussions” with the communist Vietnamese. For whatever reason, Hanoi finally snapped and bit back at Beijing’s bullying tactics.

As a result, China is now embarrassed at the debacle, an event exemplified by their General Fan “voluntarily” leaving Vietnam earlier than scheduled. To “save face,” the Chinese government is currently lashing out by sending ships and planes in a show of “strength” along Vietnam’s coast.

Thus far, it is unclear in the short term whether the situation in the South China Sea will simmer down or escalate. Time will tell.

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Viet X. Luong: The South Vietnamese Kid Who Grew Up to Be a U.S. Army General

Posted in I. News, Inspirational People, IV. Columns with tags , , , , , , on June 1, 2017 by Ian Pham

Viet X. Luong Viet X. Luong gets promoted from Colonel to Brig. General of the U.S. Army in a ceremony on August 6, 2014 at Fort Hood, Texas. (Bryan Correira / NBC News)

Luong Xuan Viet, or Viet Xuan Luong in American vernacular, was only nine years old when he came to the United States as a South Vietnamese refugee (Bowman, 2015). Today, he holds the reigning achievement of being the first-ever Vietnamese-born person to reach the rank of Brig. General in the U.S. Army (Ghandi, 2014). Currently, he is stationed in South Korea, acting as the Deputy Commanding General of the Eighth Army of the United States (United States, 2017).

His story begins like so many of ours.

It was late April 1975, in the dying days of the Vietnam War. The Republic of Vietnam was on the verge of collapse, and like so many other South Vietnamese at the time, Viet’s family was frantically planning to evacuate the dying country.

During the last days of the war, Viet’s father, a marine in the South Vietnamese Army, called an emergency family meeting. There, it was decided that the Luong family would depart Vietnam before the communist takeover. Following a harrowing excursion to Tan Son Nhut Air Base, which involved sightings of communist artillery fire, Viet and his family entered a Marine helicopter and flew out to the Pacific. Eventually, the Luong family would land on the USS Hancock aircraft carrier, where Viet recalls his father telling him, “… nothing in the world can harm you now,” (Bowman, 2015).

Standing on the wide deck of that American aircraft carrier, Viet found his life’s calling (Hood, 2014). “I knew right back then that I wanted to serve our country,” Viet said (Bowman, 2015).

After becoming settled in Southern California with his family, Viet would come of age and steadily follow in his father’s footsteps (Hood, 2014).

As an undergrad at the University of Southern California, Viet joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (Bowman, 2015). During his time in the ROTC (1983-1987), he was the only cadet from an ethnic background (Garsema, 2016). Upon graduation, he joined the U.S. Army, and so began his professional military career (Bowman, 2015).

Through patience, hard work, and determination, Viet rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army to become the first Vietnamese-born ever to reach the level of general officer.

This historical moment took place on August 6, 2014, at Fort Hood, Texas, where Colonel Viet X. Luong’s uniform was pinned with the star of an Army Brigadier General (Japanese American Veterans Association, 2014).

As Brigadier General, Luong led the American training effort in Kandahar Air Base in Afghanistan, as Deputy Commander of the First Cavalry Division. This training prepared the Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban (Bowman, 2015).

In March 2016, General Luong become the Chief of Staff of U.S. Army Central (United States, 2016).

Earlier this year, in May of 2017, General Luong was assigned to South Korea as the Deputy Commanding General of Operations for the Eighth Army (United States, 2017).

Viet X. Luong’s story, his successful and still-growing military career, and his many personal victories and achievements are an inspiration for Vietnamese people everywhere, inside and outside of Vietnam. He is part of the South Vietnamese legacy, representing the struggle, hard work, and dedication of all Vietnamese people who love freedom, country, and family. His story is our story, and that story is the story of the freedom-loving Vietnamese people.

In the words of Luong himself, “As a Vietnamese American, and as an immigrant, I am a symbol of democracy, of freedom, of justice, of our constitution… I live every day trying to live up to the honor and prestige of one of the owners of that,” (Ghandi, 2014).

Viet X. LuongIn 2015, Brig. General Luong led the U.S. training of Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban. (David Gilkey / NPR)

General Viet X. Luong is a role model, not just for the Vietnamese community around the world, but for people everywhere.

Thank you for leading by example, General Luong, and thank you for your service.

 

Sources:

Bowman, Tom. “The Frightened Vietnamese Kid Who Became A U.S. Army General.” April 30, 2015. NPR. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2015/04/30/403082804/the-frightened-vietnamese-kid-who-became-a-u-s-army-general.

“Colonel Viet Xuan Luong Promoted to Flag Rank.” August 15, 2014. Japanese American Veterans Association. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://javadc.org/news/press-release/army-brigadier-general-viet-xuan-luong/.

Garsema, Emily. “USC Alum, An Army Brigadier General, Shares His Tale of Success With Cadets.” April 1, 2016. USC News. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://news.usc.edu/97768/usc-alum-an-army-brigadier-general-shares-his-tale-of-success-with-cadets/.

Ghandi, Lakshmi. “U.S. Military Promotes First Vietnamese-American General.” August 11, 2014. NBC News. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/u-s-military-promotes-first-vietnamese-american-general-n177936.

Hood, David. “Southern California Man is First Vietnamese-Born General in U.S. Military.” August 18, 2014. The Orange County Register. Accessed May 31, 2017. http://www.ocregister.com/2014/08/18/southern-california-man-is-first-vietnamese-born-general-in-us-military/.

United States. “General Officer Assignments, Release No: NR-088-16.” March 15, 2016. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/694035/general-officer-assignments/.

United States. “General Officer Assignments, Release No: NR-156-17.” March 15, 2016. U.S. Department of Defense. Accessed May 31, 2017. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Releases/News-Release-View/Article/1168558/general-officer-assignments/.