Two Vietnamese officials were caught on video mocking U.S. President Joe Biden during the weekend summit meeting between the United States and the Association for Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Washingon, D.C.
The video reportedly became a viral sensation before it was removed from the U.S. State Department’s YouTube channel.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) described the incident on Monday:
According to a series of tweets about the incident by Southeast Asia analyst Nguyen Phuong Linh, the video shows the Vietnamese delegation laughing that U.S. President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Chinh that he could “not trust Russia.” Chinh also describes the meeting with Biden as “straightforward and fair and that Vietnam isn’t afraid of anyone,” after which the Vietnamese ambassador to the U.S., Nguyen Quoc Dzung, said they “put [Biden] into checkmate.”
Minister of Public Security To Lam is also seen praising the former deputy national security adviser during the Trump administration, Matthew Pottinger, for being young and smart and having a wife who was born in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese officials also refer to a number of U.S. officials without using honorific terms that, in the Vietnamese language, should be used in formal situations.
Analyst Nguyen Phuong Linh suggested the video could be taken as evidence of a “dysfunctional” Vietnamese cabinet and the incompetence of Vietnamese leadership “in terms of comms, foreign affairs, and security.”
The State Department’s unexplained removal of the video from YouTube looked “embarrassing for the Vietnamese,” according to the BBC’s Bill Hayton, while RFA noted Vietnamese social media users seemed to be appalled by the poor manners demonstrated by their government officials, including Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.
The State Department posted a brief readout of the meeting between Chinh and Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday which made no mention of the video controversy:
Secretary Blinken highlighted the strong U.S. relationship with ASEAN, as evidenced by the U.S.-ASEAN Special Summit. He reaffirmed the thriving U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership and U.S. support for ASEAN centrality; the Mekong-U.S. Partnership; and a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. The Secretary and the Prime Minister discussed ways to broaden and deepen security cooperation, trade and economic ties, climate change cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges.
Vietnam had a generally good weekend in the international press, as it lifted the last of its coronavirus testing requirements on Saturday, to the delight of tourists and investors eager to visit the country.