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Australia has joined the US in elevating its diplomatic ties with Vietnam to the highest level as Canberra moves to strengthen links across the Asia Pacific against a backdrop of China’s rising regional influence.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the shift to a comprehensive strategic partnership during Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s state visit to Canberra on Thursday. That followed the conclusion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Australia special summit in Melbourne.

“There is enormous potential to be realized through closer ties between Australia and Vietnam,” Albanese said in a statement.

Speaking after the announcement, Chinh said he was confident that Vietnam and Australia had “entered a new chapter in the history of our bilateral relationship.”

The broader ties include cooperation in defense, maritime security, cyber security, critical technology, trade and investment as well as in tourism, according to a joint statement released after the briefing. They acknowledged the need to build resilient supply chains and committed to explore opportunities to deepen cooperation on commodities and energy. About 44% of Vietnam’s coal imports are from Australia.

The two leaders expressed their concern on the situation in the South China Sea, reaffirming their commitment to security and stability, freedom of navigation and overflight, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The announcement comes about six months after Washington moved to a similar status with Hanoi. Both the US and China have been working to build their ties with Vietnam amid growing strategic competition in Southeast Asia, particularly around the contested South China Sea.

President Xi Jinping and President Joe Biden have both visited the Southeast Asian nation over the past six months. During his trip in September, Biden announced the comprehensive strategic partnership between the US and Vietnam, while Xi urged Vietnam in December to “oppose any attempts to mess up the Asia-Pacific.”

The announcement of elevated ties between Australia and Vietnam follows a three-day special summit to commemorate 50 years of relations between Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Australia has been working to boost its relationship with Southeast Asia in recent years as part of a broader realignment of its foreign policy.

Alongside the US and now Australia, China, Russia, India and South Korea have comprehensive strategic partnerships with Vietnam.