In drawing upon that shared past while encouraging greater democratization, Obama is raising up Vietnam as a capable ally that will remain long after he leaves office.
The U.S. will lift the ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam, President Barack Obama announced Monday.
Obama drew from his personal recollections of the era. He steered clear of any condemnation of Vietnam for its treatment of dissidents. His late father served as a helicopter pilot for the South Vietnamese Army during that war.
The U.S. President said that U.S. wanted to strengthen its ties with Vietnam and do away with a ban “based on ideological division between our two countries”.
President Obama arrived Wednesday morning in Japan for the next leg of his Asia tour. China has welcomed the lift for Vietnam’s global relations but a Xinhua commentary warns that it should not be used as a tool to threaten or damage the strategic interests of a third country.
Obama noted that several activists had been blocked from meeting him and said this was an indication that, despite some “modest” legal reforms “there are still folks who find it very hard to assemble and organise peacefully around issues that they care deeply about”. “I’m not over it yet”.
Like Cuba, which Obama visited earlier this year, the president is striving to normalize relations with countries that had been out of the question in the past.
And campaigners criticised Mr Obama for lifting the embargo without securing public concessions from Vietnam on its dismal human rights record.
The president stressed the need for stability especially in the South China Sea, where a number of countries – China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Indonesia – have competing claims on reefs and islands.
“Vietnam has no policy of militarisation, but we have necessary measures together with other countries, and worldwide friends like Japan to maintain peace, freedom of navigation, over-flight and trade in the South China Sea”, Mr Phuc said in Vietnamese. Some rank-and-file veterans echoed those concerns.
Similarly the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which includes Vietnam but not China, was one of “three nets that the United States is knitting around China-ideology, security, economy and trade”, the paper added. But the state-run China Daily has set a harsher tone, noting concerns that the move is meant to “curb the rise of China”.
“The US believes that allowing Vietnam now to buy weapons will perhaps embolden Vietnam in pressing its claims. What sense does that make?” Obama said some activists were blocked from attending the meeting. He said each deal would be reviewed individually.
“We don’t take a position on those claims”.
“The U.S.is on the other side of the Pacific”, he replied. Human rights advocates seem largely unsatisfied that enough progress has been made, citing the continued detention of political prisoners and police beatings of protesters.
A couple of generations of Southeast Asian families have sent their children to USA schools, raised them in US neighborhoods and watched them grow into independent adults, living the American dream.