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Biden to visit Vietnam next month as Washington seeks closer ties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden will visit Vietnam next month to meet with top officials on issues ranging from technology and the economy to regional stability and climate change, as Washington eyes closer ties in a region where China looms large.

Biden will meet with Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and other top Vietnamese leaders in Hanoi on Sept. 10 before traveling to Alaska to commemorate the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the White House said.

Washington is eager to upgrade relations with Hanoi, considering it a key partner in the region at a time when U.S. relations with Beijing are increasingly strained. Vietnam, meanwhile, must weigh the reaction of its powerful neighbor as China becomes more assertive.

The Biden administration has sought to strengthen U.S. relations in Asia, and Biden will arrive in Vietnam from India, where he is scheduled to visit from Sept. 7-10 and attend a G20 summit. However, he is not attending the ASEAN meetings early next month, instead dispatching Vice President Kamala Harris.

Diplomats have said it would be a significant disappointment if Biden did go to the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits in Jakarta.

While in Hanoi, Biden and Vietnamese officials will discuss deepening the two countries' ties as well as boosting "a technology-focused and innovation-driven Vietnamese economy", the White House said in a statement after Biden earlier this month announced plans for the trip.

Vietnam's foreign ministry on Tuesday said the visits by the leaders of the two countries will strengthen the Vietnam-U.S. relationship.

The visits "will develop bilateral relationship in a sustainable, substantive and long-term manner, contributing to peace, stability and cooperation in the region and in the world", Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Pham Thu Hang said in a statement.

Washington is focused on Vietnam as a key regional partner, especially as the memory of the Vietnam War era increasingly fades. Biden and Trong spoke by phone in March, and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the southeast Asian nation a month later.

The U.S. is Vietnam's largest export market, and the two former foes are celebrating the 10th anniversary of a "comprehensive partnership" this year.

Trong, Vietnam's most powerful figure, last year became the first foreign leader to meet President Xi Jinping in Beijing after the Chinese leader secured a precedent-breaking third term.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Trevor Hunnicutt; additional reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Rami Ayyub, Sandra Maler, Paul Simao and Ed Osmond)