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International relations

Australia upgrades relations with Vietnam to 'strategic partnership'

Hanoi's ties on par with those for U.S., China, India, South Korea, Japan and Russia

Australia's Prime Minister Anthony Albanese speaks during a joint media statement with Laos' Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne on March 6.

SYDNEY (Reuters) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said on Thursday the country was elevating ties with Vietnam to a comprehensive strategic partnership, opening an annual dialogue on critical minerals amid a push to diversify supply chains away from China.

"Elevating our ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership today, places Australia and Vietnam among each other's significant partners," Albanese told a news conference in Canberra.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said on Tuesday he was expecting Vietnam and Australia to announce an upgrade of their bilateral ties during his ongoing visit, which now puts the country's relations with Australia at its highest possible level.

The partnership will support expanded cooperation on a range of issues, including climate, environment and energy, defence and security, and economic engagement and education, a joint statement by the two countries said.

Australia is a major producer of critical minerals, used in everything from smartphones to automobiles, while Vietnam has some of the largest untapped deposits in the world.

"An annual ministerial dialogue on energy and minerals will drive cooperation in our energy and resources sectors, including critical minerals supply chains," the statement said.

The United States has already agreed to boost cooperation on rare earths with Vietnam, whose resources are seen as an alternative source of the minerals. China has the world's largest deposits, with 44 million tons estimated, and dominates the extraction and processing of the critical minerals.

Communist Party-ruled Vietnam's "bamboo diplomacy" saw it boost relations last year with the world's top powers as it tries to navigate rising global tensions. Along with Australia, the Southeast Asian nation's top partners now include the United States, China, India, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

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