US envoy visiting Hanoi, following Putin

The US State Department said Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Daniel Kritenbrink, will make a two-day visit to Hanoi from Friday. This comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin made a state visit to Vietnam.

The announcement says Kritenbrink is set to meet with senior Vietnamese officials to underscore deepening bilateral ties. Last year, the two countries upgraded their diplomatic relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

He will also reaffirm Washington's strong commitment to working with Vietnam to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Kritenbrink had previously served as ambassador to Vietnam and is said to have strong connections to the country's leadership.

Putin's visit to Vietnam on Thursday was apparently aimed at solidifying friendships at a time when the US and other Western countries have sought to isolate Russia for invading Ukraine.

Observers say Washington is also keen to strengthen ties with Vietnam amid Moscow's diplomatic efforts, and to counter China's growing presence in the region.