Does the issuance of AUD-2 coins with a “yellow flag” by the Royal Australian Mint affect the two countries’ plan to upgrade the Vietnam-Australia relationship this year?
The Royal Australian Mint Company in early April issued two Aussie 2 coins in silver and gold to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the withdrawal of Australian troops from the Vietnam War. These two coins are printed with the symbol of the yellow flag with three red stripes of the Republic of Vietnam.
On May 4, at a regular press conference in Hanoi, Deputy Spokesperson of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Pham Thu Hang asked Australia to stop circulating publications with “yellow flags” and prevent similar incidents in the future.
What is its impact on Vietnam – Australia relations?
The representative of Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the release of items with the image of the flag of a regime that no longer exists by Royal Australia Mint and Australia Post is completely inconsistent with the good development trend of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership.
So how does this event affect the relationship between the two countries?
Dr. Nguyen Hong Hai, an expert in Political Science and a researcher at the Center for Policy Futures, Faculty of Humanities and Sociology, University of Queensland, Australia, said that this case was minor and the two sides completely resolved the issue. All problems can be easily resolved by frank discussion with each other, in the spirit of “sincerity, trust“:
“I talked to an expert on Vietnam’s foreign affairs in the country, and they also found that it’s not worth it to let events like this affect Vietnam-Australia relations. And they also do not think that this will hurt the two countries’ relations.
That’s why it’s just a ripple, not a problem that can’t be solved.”
Dr. Hong Hai assessed that the two countries are still maintaining good relations. The proof is that when President Vo Van Thuong went to England to attend the coronation ceremony of King Charles III on May 4, Mr. Thuong still met and interacted with the Governor-General of Australia and with the Prime Minister of Australia. Mr. Hai concluded:
“If the matter is serious, I do not think there will be such contact between the President of Vietnam and two figures who are considered Australian heads of state in the UK.”
Upgrade bilateral relationship this year?
Therefore, Dr. Hong Hai believes that the two countries will still upgrade their relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership this year:
“I still believe that the upgrade of the relationship from the current Strategic Partnership to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and Australia will continue as planned this year, which is the 50th anniversary of bilateral relations and five years of establishing a strategic partnership between the two countries.”
On April 4, President Vo Van Thuong welcomed Australian Governor General David Hurley in Hanoi. According to state media, leaders of the two countries held talks on upgrading relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at an appropriate time.
The Diplomat newspaper network in early March 2023 published an article by Dr. Hong Hai looking back on 50 years of Vietnam – Australia relationship.
Accordingly, in July 1973, Australian Charge d’Affaires at that time Bruce Woodberry visited Hanoi, officially marking the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In September 2009, Vietnam and Australia upgraded their relationship to Comprehensive Partnership on the occasion of the visit to Australia by the then General Secretary Nong Duc Manh of the Communist Party of Vietnam. In March 2018, on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries upgraded their relations to Strategic Partnership.
Since then, Vietnam has become the fourth country in ASEAN, after Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, having strategic partnership with Australia.
Over the past half century, Vietnam and Australia have achieved some impressive achievements in three areas, including economy, trade and investment; education and training; politics, security and defense.
In 2022, Australia was Vietnam’s seventh largest trading partner, while Vietnam became Australia’s 10th largest trading partner for the first time. The total value of two-way trade reached nearly $16 billion.
In addition, Australia has always been one of the largest foreign development aid countries to Vietnam, with millions of dollars a year, since Vietnam started Doi Moi in 1986.
With a relationship that is as good as it is today, Vietnam has again asked Australia to stop circulating coins with the image of the Republic of Vietnam flag, according to Carl Thayer, an expert in Australia specializing in Vietnamese political research, “it’s an overreaction,” especially at a time when the two countries are discussing to upgrade the relationship:
“This comes at a very inappropriate time as the two countries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. We are ready to upgrade relations when an Australian head of state has come to Vietnam.”
According to Dr. Carl Thayer, the issue of this coin is an Australian affair, it is a memorial to the soldiers who fought for Australia:
“I was in Vietnam from 1967 to 1968, we are veterans and we are proud of our service. And this has nothing to do with the former Republic of Vietnam. It was a moment of history. That badge is worn to those who serve the country. We should acknowledge their sacrifice.”
Professor Carl Thayer said that since Vietnam’s reunification, Communist leaders wanted to open the door and receive more aid for development. Therefore, they always tell Australia to forget the past. Therefore, Professor Carl Thayer also hopes that the Vietnamese leadership will also keep the attitude of “forget the bad history” in this incident.
“We cannot change history, but we can move toward reconciliation. We can move towards a better bilateral relationship.”