from the between-a-rock-and-a-hard-place dept.
Reuters reports that the United States has asked Vietnam to stop letting Russia use its former US base at Cam Ranh Bay to refuel nuclear-capable bombers which are engaged in shows of strength over the Asia-Pacific region. General Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, says the Russian bombers have conducted "provocative" flights, including around the U.S. Pacific Ocean territory of Guam which is home to a major American air base. Brooks said the planes that circled Guam were refuelled by Russian tankers flying from the strategic bay, which was transformed by the Americans during the Vietnam War into a massive air and naval base. Russia’s Defense Ministry confirmed that the airport at Cam Ranh Bay was first used for staging Il-78 tankers for aerial refueling of Tu-95MS bombers in January 2014. Asked about the Russian flights in the region, the State Department official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Washington respected Hanoi's right to enter agreements with other countries but added that "we have urged Vietnamese officials to ensure that Russia is not able to use its access to Cam Ranh Bay to conduct activities that could raise tensions in the region."
Cam Ranh Bay is considered the finest deepwater shelter in Southeast Asia. North Vietnamese forces captured Cam Ranh Bay and all of its remaining facilities in 1975. Vietnam’s dependence on Russia as the main source of military platforms, equipment, and armaments has now put Hanoi in a difficult spot. Russia has pressed for special access to Cam Ranh Bay ever since it began delivering enhanced Kilo-class submarines to Vietnam. "Hanoi is invariably cautious and risk averse in its relations with the major powers," says Carl Thayer. "The current issue of Russian tankers staging out of Cam Ranh pits Russia and China on one side and the United States on the other. There is no easy solution for Vietnam."