U.S.-Vietnam Military Relations: Game Theory Perspective
Kim, Ngan M.
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In recent years, China has been flexing its military power and strengthening its claim to the resource-rich Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. These islands are also being claimed by five other countries Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Currently China claims the entire South China Sea as its territorial waters. The U.S. has great interest in this issue because its trade routes with the Asia-Pacific region go through the South China Sea. Throughout history, Vietnam and China have had a contentious relationship. Like China, Vietnam is currently modernizing its military and strengthening its claims to the South China Sea. Of the claimants to the South China Sea, Vietnam seems to be the only country that is willing to challenge Chinese assertiveness in the region. Since the normalization of relations between the United States and Vietnam, the two former enemies have become important trading partners. The United States and Vietnam are conducting yearly high-level military visits, however, the U.S. wants to take this relationship to the next level. This thesis will apply game theory and analyze whether the U.S. can influence Vietnam to open a more formal military relationship to counterbalance the assertiveness of China in the South China Sea. This thesis concludes that, from a game theoretic Strategic Moves perspective, the U.S. currently cannot apply threats, promises, or a combination thereof to compel or coerce Vietnam toward a more formal military alliance to counterbalance the assertiveness of China in the South China Sea.
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