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James Stavridis

For the U.S., Vietnam Is a Friend in Need

The threat of China should bring two former enemies into a tight security relationship.

Vietnam chasing China at sea. 

Vietnam chasing China at sea. 

Photographer: Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images

Vietnam is a country bursting with youthful energy. The nearly 100 million Vietnamese have an average age of just 31, and despite living under single-party communist rule, they have a thriving capitalist economy that may hit 10% growth this year. And, of great importance to the U.S. and its allies, Vietnam is strategically positioned along the western side of the South China Sea, and has a series of maritime disputes with its neighbors, especially China. 

I recently spent over a week visiting the country from north to south, including coastal cruising along 1,000 miles of shoreline - waters I have sailed before.