US defense secretary visits Vietnam, vows support for region

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HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is seeking to bolster ties with Vietnam, one of the Southeast Asian nations embroiled in a territorial rift with China, during a two-day visit. In a speech in Singapore, his first stop in the region he is visiting for the first time as member of President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, Austin said he was committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China, including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army. But he repeated that Beijing’s claim to virtually the entire South China Sea has no basis in international law and treads on the sovereignty of other countries. Vietnam and the Philippines are among China’s fiercest opponents in the territorial disputes.

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