Australian Navy Ships Touring SE Asia Make Port Call in Vietnam

Australia “is a strong proponent of a rules-based maritime order," said Canberra's ambassador to ASEAN, Will Nankervis.

Australian Navy Ships Touring SE Asia Make Port Call in Vietnam

Three Australian naval ships arrived in Cam Ranh port in central Vietnam on Monday as part of Canberra’s push to engage with partners in Southeast Asia, Vietnamese state media reported.

The deployment came as Australia’s foreign ministry sought to reassure the region that a new security pact with the United Kingdom and the United States, unveiled last week, would not sideline the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and would not fuel the spread of nuclear weapons.

The Australian maritime task group arrived in the Vietnamese port for a four-day stopover after visiting Brunei, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. It comprised the amphibious assault vessel HMAS Canberra, the frigate HMSA Anzac, and the replenishment ship HMAS Sirius.

According to the Vietnamese People’s Army mouthpiece Quan Doi Nhan Dan, the Australian ships together with Vietnamese partners will “conduct activities to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two navies.” It is unclear which activities will be held.

Vietnam is currently suffering from a surge of COVID-19 infections and a welcome ceremony by the Vietnamese Naval Zone 4 for the Australian ships was held virtually.

Just a few days earlier, the Australian government announced that the country’s navy would acquire at least eight nuclear-powered submarines under the new trilateral security partnership with the U.K. and the U.S., called AUKUS.

The pact is widely seen as a deterrent to China’s growing military influence in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in the South China Sea where China’s sweeping claims are disputed by neighboring countries including Vietnam.

China has denounced the pact. Southeast Asian nations have reacted cautiously and a little warily. Malaysia and Indonesia have voiced concerns it might stoke an arms race in the region.

Australia’s ambassador to ASEAN, Will Nankervis, pushed back against those concerns on Monday.

“While these submarines will be nuclear powered, they will not carry nuclear weapons. Australia does not and will not seek such weapons. Nor do we seek to establish a civil nuclear capability,” he said in a statement.

Three ships of the Australian maritime task group -- the amphibious assault vessel HMAS Canberra, the frigate HMSA Anzac, and the replenishment ship HMAS Sirius -- visit Cam Ranh port in central Vietnam for a four-day stopover, Sept. 20, 2021. Credit: Australian Embassy, Vietnam
Nankeris said Australia “is a strong proponent of a rules-based maritime order.”

“We support all countries being able to exercise their rights and freedoms consistent with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said. The statement also described Australia as “a committed supporter of ASEAN centrality.”

The Australian Navy’s current swing through the region, dubbed Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021, kicked off in late August to “provide an opportunity for Australia to engage with Southeast Asian partners beyond traditional military activities,” according to the Australian Department of Defence.

Commencing in 2017, Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) is an annual event to “strengthen Australia’s engagement and partnerships with regional security forces” but it did not occur in 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

Last week, the two Australian naval ships also conducted a three-day joint exercise in the South China Sea with U.S. coastguard vessel the USCG Cutter Munro. The joint engagement included "joint operations, professional exchanges, and multi-unit maneuvering at sea", according to the U.S. Coast Guard force.

Reported by RFA.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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Vietnam Will Buy 10 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses From Cuba

The homegrown vaccine rollout hit a snag due to insufficient efficacy data.

Vietnam Will Buy 10 Million COVID-19 Vaccine Doses From Cuba

Vietnam will purchase 10 million doses of a Cuban coronavirus vaccine amid a scarcity of doses in the Southeast Asian country as it weathers its worst outbreak since the beginning of the pandemic, state media reported.

Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc over the weekend traveled to Cuba on an official visit, where he met with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel.

The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported that Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh approved the proposal to buy the 10 million doses of the Abdala vaccine.

Cuba’s Abdala vaccine joins seven others approved for use in Vietnam. They are the British-Swedish AstraZeneca, the Russian Sputnik V, the Chinese-made Vero Cell and Hayat-Vax, and the U.S.-made Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

As of Monday, Vietnam has received 50 million vaccine doses through imports, the World Health Organization’s COVAX program, and direct donations by other countries. Of these, 35 million doses have been administered to Vietnam’s population of 98 million.

Homegrown holdup

The rollout of Vietnam’s homegrown Nanocovax coronavirus vaccine has been held up due to a lack of data regarding its efficacy, health authorities reported.

The National Ethics Committee in Biomedical Research under the Ministry of Health said the conclusion was made Saturday at a meeting to discuss mid-term results of the vaccine’s third-phase clinical trial, which ended Sept. 2.

The Committee said the vaccine been deemed safe for use, but the research group must keep working to provide the sufficient data on its efficacy.

Nanocovax, produced by Nanogen, is one of four Vietnamese domestically developed COVID-19 vaccines and the first to have reached phase 3 clinical trials. Around 13,000 people have participated in phase 3.

Given the high demand for vaccines and their relative scarcity, many expected that the Nanocovax vaccine would soon be approved by the government for local use. 

Videos of Buddhist Monk praying for Nanocovax’ early approval went viral on social media last week.

Social media users were critical of the Venerable Master Thich Nhat Tu, Abbot of Giac Ngo Pagoda, who performed the early approval prayer. They said vaccine research and development should be based on science, rather than faith.  

Vietnam had been among the most effective countries in tackling COVID-19, reporting no deaths through late July 2020—a record that was attributed to effective contact tracing, strict quarantines, and early testing.

After successfully weathering three separate waves of the virus with confirmed cases numbering in the low thousands, a fourth wave arrived in April 2021. As of Monday, Vietnam has confirmed 687,063 cases of COVID-19 and 17,090 deaths according to data from Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

During the fourth wave, the country locked down its largest cities and forbade residents from leaving their houses except to procure food, a move that has led to widespread unemployment and loss of income.

But even as the harsh measures dragged on, reported cases continued to climb.

Reported by RFA’s Vietnamese Service. Translated by Anna Vu. Written in English by Eugene Whong.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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