Indo-Pacific Geopolitics Newsletter 09/11/2023

RADAR SWEEP Geopolitics Newsletter September 4 – 11, 2023 US PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN’S HISTORIC VISIT TO VIETNAM US President Joe


Geopolitics Newsletter September 4 – 11, 2023


US President Joe Biden touched down in Vietnam and was hosted by the General Secretary of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, in Hanoi this week. The visit is expected to result in the upgrading of bilateral ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP)—the highest level of diplomatic recognition afforded by Vietnam.

Apart from the historical symbolism of the meeting of former enemies, the implications of the CSP are a significant diplomatic shift for Hanoi. Vietnam has long resisted such recognition for the US out of fears of upsetting China. Indeed, Vietnam hitherto only extended such CSPs to four other countries, including Russia and China.

It is a major diplomatic win for the Biden Administration as it seeks to woo Southeast Asian countries closer to Washington’s orbit and contain China. While Vietnam has endeavored to balance relations with China and the US for the past decade, ongoing Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea—especially in the Spratly Islands where Vietnam also claims sovereignty—has clearly annoyed Hanoi.

However, there is a limit to Vietnam’s gravitational pull towards Washington’s orbit. Vietnam’s “Four No’s” policy will stop Hanoi from joining any security containment of China but potentially more contentious is Vietnam’s traditional reliance on Russia for arms imports. Indeed, Hanoi’s arms negotiations with Moscow this year potentially breach US sanctions on Russia.

Regardless, Vietnam’s Russia relationship is likely to be tactfully handled as other US strategic partners like India also have longstanding arms relationships with Russia. The upgrade in ties opens significant opportunities for US trade and investment in Vietnam—incentivizing US supply chains away from China to its southern neighbor. This will likely increase US interests in Vietnam’s economy via Washington’s Indo-Pacific Partnership—the nascent Biden administration rival to Beijing’s Belt and Road. Read more

US visit Vietnam

US President Joe Biden is welcomed during his visit by Vietnam Communist Party Leader, Nguyen Phu Trong. Source: AP


Pope Francis concluded his historic trip to Mongolia – Sept. 4

Pope Francis’ trip to the landlocked country was the first official visit by a pontiff. Mongolia’s Roman Catholics number a mere 1,500 adherents, raising questions as to the reasons for the visit. However, Mongolia enjoys significant cultural ties to its neighbor China, a country whose official state religion is atheism but has a population of somewhere between six to 12 million Catholics. Read more

Indonesia hosted the 43rd ASEAN Summit – Sept. 6

Leaders from the 10-member association and several ASEAN partners discussed regional issues and prospects for stronger economic integration during the two-day event. The US was represented by Vice President Kamala Harris. Read more

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese confirmed an imminent trip to China – Sept. 7

Prime Minister Albanese announced that he expects to travel to China in the next two months. The visit will be the first by an Australian prime minister to China since 2016 and comes after political and trade disputes led to China imposing sanctions on major Australian exports. Albanese made the announcement following talks with Chinese Premier Li Qiang on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Jakarta. Read More [External]

China hosted 7th Australia-China High Level Dialogue – Sept. 7

A contingent of Australian federal ministers and private participants met senior Chinese officials in Beijing for the 7th Australia-China High Level Dialogue. It was the first high-level dialogue between Australia and China in over three years. The dialogue gave an opportunity for the two sides to engage in a constructive discussion on a number of issues such as trade, investment, and education. Read more

China drafted a new Public Security Law – Sept. 7

China’s peak legislative body solicited public opinion on a draft revision of the Public Security Law that expands the scope of penalties for a wide range of behaviors, including cheating on exams, organizing pyramid schemes, and unauthorized drone flights. So far around 39,000 people have offered input via the website of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC). Read More [External]

Lavrov concluded Bangladesh trip – Sept. 8

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov concluded a two-day visit to Dhaka. The meeting represented the first time a Russian foreign minister had visited Bangladesh. During his trip, Lavrov met his Bangladeshi counterpart, AK Abdul Momen, and held talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Discussions focused on the Rohingya crisis, global food supplies, and energy cooperation. Read More

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing Wen visited Eswatini – Sept. 8

The state visit to the African country reflects the investments Taiwan has in the oil-starved country—chief among them a major oil storage facility built via Taiwanese aid funding. The landlocked Eswatini Kingdom (formerly known as Swaziland) is almost entirely surrounded by South Africa and is the only African country to recognize Taiwan. Read more

Pyongyang marked the 75th anniversary of the founding of North Korea – Sept. 8

North Korean authorities celebrated the 75th anniversary of the country’s founding with a large-scale parade.  A Chinese delegation led by Vice Premier Liu Guozhong were guests of honor. The move comes at a time when Kim Jong Un is striving to strengthen the visibility of his partnerships with Beijing and Moscow, as he seeks to break out of his diplomatic isolation and ensure that North Korea is part of a united front against the United States. Read More [External]

Maldives held its presidential election – Sept. 9

Incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), faced seven candidates, four from existing parties and three running as independent candidates. The election was held in the context of geopolitical rivalry between India and China as candidates sought to articulate whether they adhered to the traditional Maldivian balancing act between the two powers or not. Read More

India opened G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi – Sept. 9

The summit drew leaders from countries comprising 85% of global GDP. However, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping did not attend. The meeting is the culmination of a year’s worth of ministerial and official prefatory meetings to set the trade and investment priorities for member states. A particular focus for India is the promotion of digital economy initiatives among developing states. Read more

National Security

Georgia court arraigned US President Trump on election interference charges – Sept. 6

As expected, Trump entered a not-guilty plea in the process that is likely to be a major part of the 2024 US presidential election campaign. The unprecedented number of charges for a former US President has galvanized Trump’s supporters. As a result, his popularity has surged among this core part of the Republican base, heightening political polarization in US politics. Read more

Danish intelligence services trial concluded – Sept. 8

Ahmed Samsam, a Danish man convicted of terrorism charges, claimed to have been an undercover agent for Danish intelligence services within the Islamic State. Samsam  called on authorities to acknowledge his employment, leading to this court process  Read more [External]

Politics & Society

German parliament passed a new heating law – Sept. 4

Debate on the law in civil society was contentious, leading to some alterations. The law? could have major implications for the country’s dependence on gas and oil imports.  Read More

Bundestag began its debate on 2024 budget – Sept. 5

Germany’s coalition parties vowed to prioritize economic growth during the current inflationary and cost of living crises. Forecasters predict that Germany will be the only major economy to contract this year, as it has been particularly hard hit by the war in Russia, given its dependence on Russian gas. Read More [External]

Peru reshuffled cabinet for the second time in six months – Sept. 6

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte reshuffled six positions in her cabinet. It is the second partial reshuffle of her cabinet in eight months. The new ministers were sworn in at the government palace in Lima. Read More [External]


Romania to host US-NATO naval exercises in the Danube Delta and Black Sea – Sept. 11

The area has been the target of Russian missile strikes on Ukrainian side of the border. Read more [External]

New Thai cabinet to hold first meeting – Sept. 12

It comes weeks after a new prime minister was appointed by the military-controlled vote in parliament, contrary to the election results in May. Read more [External]

Israel’s High Court to hear the challenge to controversial judicial reforms – Sept. 12

The reforms are the cornerstone of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s domestic agenda but have been met with unprecedented domestic protests. Read more [External]


Contributions by: John Milo, Kareem Salem, and Cian Muenster