Vietnam president in meeting with US ambassador calls for stronger defence, economic ties

HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam's newly elected president To Lam on Thursday called for a strengthening of ties with the United States, the government said.

Vietnam has been seeking to boost relations with Washington as part of its "bamboo diplomacy" as it tries to navigate rising global disputes and maintain economic growth.

In a meeting on Thursday with the U.S. ambassador to Hanoi, Marc Knapper, Lam said the two countries should gradually expand cooperation in defence and security, the government said in a statement.

Lam, who was elected state president three weeks ago, said Vietnam and the U.S. should also boost economic ties and promote high-level visits.

Vietnam's exports to the U.S. in the first five months of this year rose 22% from a year earlier to $44.4 billion, representing 28% of its overall exports in the period, according to the government's customs data.

On Tuesday, in a meeting with Chinese ambassador to Hanoi, Xiong Bo, Lam said it was important that South China Sea maritime disputes between the two countries were managed well and each country's interests were respected.

Vietnam and China have been embroiled in a years-long maritime dispute in the South China Sea. Vietnam's foreign ministry last week said it was deeply concerned over the presence of a Chinese survey vessel in Vietnam's exclusive economic zone.

Lam and other Vietnamese leaders are expected to receive Russian President Vladimir Putin in Hanoi next week, but the visit has not yet been officially announced.

(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by Angus MacSwan)