BLUFDespite Vietnam’s apparent neutrality regarding AUKUS, the reality is that Vietnam is quietly supportive of anything likely to maintain the continuity of the international rules-based order.
ASPI contributor Hai Hong Nguyen argues that any discussion about how AUKUS is perceived in the region should consider that Vietnam sees the AUKUS agreement as 'self-evidently in Australia's national interest'. Nguyen makes the following points:
Hanoi sees AUKUS as both a trilateral security alliance and a vehicle to enable Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines—and it does not have a problem with that.
AUKUS emerged due to China's power politics, increasingly aggressive actions in the South China Sea, and trade and international relations coercion.
Vietnam believes the best response to a threat is to be well prepared for the worst, which is evident in Vietnam's current defence posture.
Vietnam understands that Australia sees the threat to their national security as real and imminent.
There were various reactions by members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the AUKUS announcement.
Hanoi's neutrality on AUKUS and Australia's nuclear submarine acquisition could be construed as hidden support rather than opposition.
Vietnam, also a target of coercive Chinese action, strongly supports an international rules-based order* in the Indo-Pacific that AUKUS should help maintain.
Vietnam has strong strategic relationships with all three AUKUS nations and, in particular, Australia.
*Australian governments have typically defined the rules-based order expansively to encompass:
"a broad architecture of international governance which has developed since the end of the Second World War".
Lowy Institute Australia's Security and the Rules-Based Order
Aug 2021 ASPI Vietnam and Australia share a strong framework for deeper ties in a contested Indo-Pacific
Sep 2021 The Diplomat AUKUS: The View from ASEAN
Sep 2021 ASPI Far from breaking with the past, AUKUS advances Australia’s commitment to collective defence
Oct 2021 The Conversation Understanding ASEAN’s silence behind AUKUS agreement