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Germany's Scholz kicks off Asia tour with stop in Vietnam

November 13, 2022

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and a 12-member business delegation, is in Hanoi to meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to discuss building economic ties.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz walk on a red carpet as children wave German and Vietnamese flags
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz kicked off a four-day tour of Asia in Vietnam SundayImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Vietnam Sunday at the start of a four-day trip to Asia, his spokesman Steffen Hebestreit said. 

Scholz was welcomed with military honors by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh before heading into talks with the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong.

The bilateral talks are said to focus on increasing economic ties between Germany and Vietnam. There will also be a roundtable with business leaders later in the afternoon. Russia's war in Ukraine is also on the agenda. 

After meeting with Chinh, Scholz pressed his hosts to take a "clear position" on Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

Scholz said, "It is a question of the Russian war of aggression being a breach of international law with a dangerous precedent. Small countries can no longer be safe from the behaviour of their larger, more powerful neighbors."

Why is Scholz in Vietnam?

Announcing Scholz's arrival on Twitter, Hebestreit said Germany wants to position itself more "broadly" economically by building more global trade relationships.

At a joint news conference with Chinh, Scholz said Germany wants deeper trade relations with Vietnam. Scholz added Germany would support the Vietnam's transition to a greener economy.

Vietnam is Germany's most important trading partner in Southeast Asia. Over 350 German companies are invested in Vietnam's rapidly growing economy with a population of nearly 100 million.

Scholz hopes to shore up business and diplomatic ties to balance German interests in Asia to reduce dependence on China while highlighting that German foreign policy sees that there is more to Asia than China.

Scholz's first visit to Asia was to Beijing with a trade delegation of German business leaders.

Vietnam has close relations with both China and Russia.

Why Germany can't make up its mind about China

Hanoi's relationship with Beijing is complicated due to a territorial dispute over two groups of islands in the South China Sea.

Russia is Vietnam's primary arms supplier and the two cooperate in developing Vietnam's offshore oil and gas fields. Vietnam was one of only five countries to abstain from a vote on a resolution at the UN concerning Russia's attacks on the Ukrainian nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia.

What else does Scholz have planned on his tour of Asia?

On Monday, Scholz is scheduled to travel Singapore where he is scheduled to appear at an economic conference alongside Germany's Economy Minister Robert Habeck.

Monday evening, the G20 summit kicks off in Bali. US President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping are scheduled to attend.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has opted out of awkward confrontations, especially with Western leaders following his decision to invade Ukraine. He will send Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov instead.

Putin's appearance would have been the first by the Russian leader at a major international forum since February 24, when Russia launched its ill-fated invasion of Ukraine.

ar/wmr (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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