Obama lifts U.S. arms ban on Vietnam
Hanoi, May 23: President Obama has announced that the United States is fully lifting the ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam which has been in place for decades.
In a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Obama said that the removal of the ban would be part of a deeper defense co-operation with the country.
He thanked Vietnam for its continued aid in addressing what he called “the painful legacy of war,” referring to attempts to locate veterans missing in action, the removal of landmines and the cleaning up of Agent Orange.
Earlier Monday, the two leaders shook hands in front of a large bronze bust of Vietnamese Communist Leader Ho Chi Minh inside the Presidential Palace.
“We’ve come here as a symbol of the renewed ties we have made over the last several decades and the comprehensive partnership we have created over the course of my presidency,” Obama said.
Obama is on a week-long trip to Asia to boost economic and security cooperation in the region and is expected to head south to Ho Chi Minh City before traveling to Japan.
It was President Bill Clinton who reopened diplomatic ties with Vietnam in 1995, and in 2000 became the first president to travel there since U.S. civilian and military personnel were evacuated from there 25 years earlier.
Vietnam: From enemy to partner
Secretary of State John Kerry and National Security Adviser Susan Rice joined Obama at the meeting, along with Trade ambassador Mike Froman and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes.
The trip will be a strategic countering neighboring China’s growing influence in the region. While Vietnam and China are neighbors that share Communist ideology, China has aggressively claiming territory in the South China Sea including flying jets dangerously close to U.S. aircraft.
Political watchers are also looking for signs of an end to the arms embargo.
Vietnam fisherman on the front lines of South China Sea fray
Obama’s aides said ahead of his arrival in Hanoi that no decision had been made on ending the embargo, but indicated such a move was under consideration.
Until now, consistent human rights concerns had prevented the United States from fully removing the restrictions on selling weapons to Vietnam. Many of those concerns remain, including the jailing of dissidents and stalled political reforms.
In June 1963, photographer Malcolm Browne showed the world a shocking display of protest. A Buddhist monk named Thich Quang Duc burned himself to death on a street in Saigon to protest alleged persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. The image won Browne the World Press Photo of the Year.