20 May 16. US in talks to place military equipment in Vietnam for first time since war’s end. The US is in talks with Vietnam to position military equipment in the South-east Asian country for the first time since the end of the war just over four decades ago, according to US officials.
The two governments have been discussing the use of Da Nang as a site to store equipment that could be used to respond to natural disasters in the region. The coastal city, perched strategically on the South China Sea, is where US combat forces first arrived in Vietnam in 1965.
The talks about pre-positioning equipment — although heavier on symbolism than military substance — are one example of the transformation in relations between the two former enemies, whose shared anxiety about a rising China has made them partners over the past two decades. Barack Obama, the US president, will arrive in Hanoi on Sunday night for a three-day visit that will anoint Vietnam, a one-party communist state, as an essential part of his “pivot” towards Asia.
But the cautious nature of the military engagements between the two countries, which include limits on the number of port visits and a stress on humanitarian missions, underlines the sensitivities that surround any US involvement in Vietnam. The US carried out an eight-year military intervention in the country from 1965-73.
While Hanoi wants to work with the US to challenge Beijing’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, it is wary of irritating its superpower neighbour — a fellow Communist-run state with which Vietnam shares a complex set of security, trade and political ties.
Vietnam has a tortuous past with China, which controlled much of the north for centuries. Given such tense history and geographical proximity, Vietnam is “China’s Cuba”, one former senior US official said. (Source: FT.com)
20 May 16. Nigeria’s Buhari orders heightened military presence in restive Niger Delta. Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said he ordered a heightened military presence in the restive Niger Delta region to deal with a resurgence of attacks on oil and gas facilities, a day after yet another pipeline explosion.
British Foreign Minster Philip Hammond warned on Saturday military action would not end a wave of attacks in the southern swamps because it did not address rising anger among residents over poverty despite sitting on much of Nigeria’s oil wealth.
The rise in attacks in the Delta in the last few weeks has driven Nigerian oil output to a more than 20-year low, worsening a drain on public finances.
A group calling itself the Niger Delta Avengers has claimed responsibility for several sophisticated attacks.
Speaking at a meeting with Shell’s upstream head, Andrew Brown, Buhari said he had instructed the chief of naval staff to reorganise and strengthen the military Joint Task Force to deal with the militancy.
“We have to be very serious with the situation in the Niger Delta because it threatens the national economy,” Buhari said in a statement.
“I assure you that everything possible will be done to protect personnel and oil assets in the region,” he added.
Nigeria had several times announced army reinforcements to the Delta but diplomats said the military has achieved little as militants were operating in small groups and hiding in the hard-to-access swamps.
“Mr. Brown had appealed for an urgent solution to rising crime and militancy in the Niger Delta,” the presidency said.
An industry source told Reuters that major oil firms warned Vice President Yemi Osinbajo this month that a military crackdown was actually fuelling dissent in the Delta.
The presidency statement also quoted Brown as saying Shell would not pull out of Nigeria despite the violence and that it was in talks with state energy firm NNPC for new oil and gas projects.
Their was no immediate comment from Shell, but its country chair said in an interview published on Sunday the firm was committed to long-term