70 years after Diên Bien Phu, Vietnam begins a new dialogue with France

70 years after Diên Bien Phu, Vietnam begins a new dialogue with France
70 years after Diên Bien Phu, Vietnam begins a new dialogue with France

A look back at the unprecedented and very political invitation from a member of the French government to the commemorations of the most famous battle of the Indochina War.

At Vietnamit is the equivalent of the storming of the Bastille: Dien Bien Phu, May 7, 1954. A historic victory against the French occupiers, sealed thanks to Vietnamese numbers and ingenuity. We still tell the story of these Vietnamese artillery guns, dismantled piece by piece, transported on foot or by bike through the jungle and reassembled hundreds of kilometers further on the orders of the general Vo Nguyên Giap, who will drown the French soldiers under a deluge of fire. This military debacle forced France to withdraw and very quickly, in July 1954, the Geneva Accords ratified the armistice and the independence of Vietnam.

Read alsoVietnam: “General Giap wrote several pages of history on his own”

Seventy years later and for the first time, the Vietnamese authorities took the decision to invite two members of the French government to the Diên Bien Phu commemorations: Sébastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces, and Patricia Mirallès, Secretary of State for Veterans. François Mitterrand did go there in 1993, but “privately”, a polite way of admitting that he had not been invited there by the Vietnamese government. Because until this week, Vietnam had never wanted to gift France with any reconciliation on the cult site of this battle still celebrated every two years with an imposing military parade.

Diplomatic relations have been reestablished since 1973 and the climate has calmed to the point that Jacques Chirac and Francois Hollande take turns on state visits to Vietnam during their mandate. Emmanuel Macron could also follow suit by the end of the year. But it’s not the everyday pot of friendship either. Very old issues, such as the repatriation of the remains of French soldiers, have still not been resolved, because dialogue remains slow and sluggish with the Vietnamese communist regime, which has a long memory.

And yet. Between the lines, we understand that Vietnam has been studying its interests on the international scene for several years, in particular the delicate balance of relations it maintains with both Beijing and Washington. What if France could serve as a point of support or a third way? In this context, the invitation to Diên Bien Phu also has a political dimension, in line with the regional strategy of Vietnam, a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) since 1995.

This organization, which brings together ten Asian countries, is facing Chinese assaults in the South China Sea and is vocally worried about a Sino-American confrontation, likely to destabilize the Asia-Pacific region. However, France has already signed two strategic partnerships with two ASEAN members, Indonesia and the Philippines. As Sébastien Lecornu, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, said in a very diplomatic manner, “we share with Vietnam a desire for balance and stability in the Indo-Pacific region”. There is no reason to rush and we are still very far from such a level of rapprochement between Hanoi and Paris. But with very small steps, we are undoubtedly moving towards a more substantive and longer-term dialogue between the two former enemies.

Read alsoVietnam: future pension reform causes massive resignations

-

-

PREV Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing agree on the “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” – 05/27/2024 at 12:35
NEXT Georgia: the President and the Prime Minister argue over “Russian law”