The aircraft reportedly were the top issue on the agenda during the meetings between the two countries FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden attends a State luncheon hosted by Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on September 11, 2023. © Nhac Nguyen / AFP

The US and Vietnam are discussing a potential deal to sell American-made F-16 fighter planes to Hanoi, Reuters reported on Saturday, citing two people familiar in the matter.

The negotiations, which are still in the “early stages,” have reportedly been “a key topic” of talks between officials from both sides over the past month in Washington, New York, and Hanoi.

“Part of what we’re working on internally as the US government is being creative about how we could try to provide better financing options to Vietnam to get them things that might be really useful to them,” a US official was quoted as saying.

The relations between the US and Vietnam started to normalize following the lifting of the 19-year-old embargo in 1994. President Joe Biden visited Hanoi earlier this month, describing the countries once hostile to one another as “critical partners at what I would argue is a very critical time.”

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The reported negotiations take place as Washington accuses China of coercing and intimidating Vietnam and other neighbors, with whom Beijing has territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Last month, the State Department approved the sale of F-16 spare parts and equipment to Taiwan, which is in the process of upgrading its fleet of warplanes. The Taipei government said in May that 66 new F-16V jets ordered from the US were expected to arrive by 2026.

China has denied stoking tensions in the region and has accused the US of harboring a “Cold War mentality.” Beijing also firmly opposes foreign military aid to Taiwan, which it considers its sovereign territory. (RT)