Adorned by pastel colored flowers and framed by a red curtain, the golden statue of Ho Chi Mihn seemed to dwarf everything else in the room, including the high level meeting between Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary and the President of the United States.
With that as a backdrop, Barack Obama came to Vietnam to “remove a lingering vestige of the Cold War:” the embargo on U.S. arms sales to Vietnam.
Obama made the point that the lifting of the arms embargo underscores the U.S. commitment to “strong defense ties with Vietnam and this region for the long term…united in our support for a regional order in the South China Sea.”
Without naming China specifically, Obama gave fair warning to Beijing that the U.S. will continue to “fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same.”
Critics — including fellow Democrat Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez of California — say by lifting the arms embargo, Obama gave away a negotiation lever to move Vietnam to respect human rights. Obama said each transaction will be scrutinized on its own merits and the issue of human rights will continue to be raised.
Everything the U.S. does with Vietnam will be seen through the prism of a long war lost. This trip to Hanoi — and later this week to Hiroshima — reminds us that there are lots of blips along the long arc of time.
Vietnam Could Be the Biggest Loser if Obama Can’t Deliver TPP
David Francis – Foreign Policy
President Barack Obama wanted to travel to Vietnam having already secured the Trans Pacific Partnership, the massive trade deal covering 40 percent of the global economy that over a decade would add $36 billion, or 11 percent, to Hanoi’s gross domestic product. But it doesn’t look like Obama will be able to deliver the deal before he leaves office.
On top of the 11 percent GDP bump, exports would soar as high as 28 percent in the next 10 years with the TPP as companies move factories to the Southeast Asian country, according to a report by the Eurasia Group. This is because labor there is cheap…
It would also serve a second purpose: Vietnam’s gains in footwear and apparel would bleed jobs from China.
Vietnam: From Enemy to Partner
Richard Fontaine – CNN
Given Vietnam’s legacy Russian systems and limited defense budget, Washington should help bolster its defense capabilities by ensuring that Vietnam receives assistance under the new,$425 million Maritime Security Initiative as well as other financing programs. Hanoi’s acquisition of radars, surveillance drones, reconnaissance aircraft and other systems would enhance its maritime domain awareness and its ability to secure its littoral areas….
In addition to deepening security ties, there are other items that should fill the bilateral agenda after Obama departs Vietnam. The U.S. Congress must either approve the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement or suffer a major setback to America’s strategic position in Asia. Washington should be vocal both publicly and privately about human rights abuses in Vietnam, and push for greater religious freedom, basic liberties, and the release of political prisoners.Vietnamese leaders should know that their brand of autocracy will place an inevitable constraint on closer ties with the United States.
Why Lifting the Vietnam Arms Embargo Is All About China
Mark Thompson – Time
President Obama issued his own Gulf of Tonkin resolution Monday, declaring that his decision to end a 50-year old U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam was “not based on China.” The statement had a whiff of the original 1964 Gulf of Tonkin resolution. That’s when President Lyndon B. Johnson misled the American people and Congress about a naval skirmish to justify a mammoth deployment of U.S. troops into what became the Vietnam War, which eventually killed 58,220 U.S. troops.“It’s all about China,” says Anthony Zinni, a retired four-star Marine general who fought in Vietnam. “No matter how much he denies it.”
Vietnam: Obama’s Visit Should Advance Human Rights
Basic freedoms of expression, association, and assembly are extremely limited. The media and Internet are controlled and censored. The Vietnamese Communist Party controls all public institutions and uses them to maintain its hold on power. Genuine elections do not take place; those being held in May for the National Assembly are a form of political theater. The courts are party organs and lack independence. Similarly, independent trade unions are not permitted.
“Obama should stand next to Vietnam’s leaders in public and call on them to respect the right to freely choose government representatives, stand for office, and peacefully advocate for democracy,” said (Human Rights Watch Asia Director Bruce) Adams. “If this trip is partially about legacy-building, as some suggest, there can be no more meaningful legacy than helping the people of Vietnam achieve fundamental reforms.”
Two Myths About the United States and Vietnam
Jonathan Zimmerman – Foreign Affairs
Vietnam won its independence from China in 1428, but France conquered it in the 1800s and ruled it until 1954. French authorities banned the Chinese characters that the Vietnamese had used to read and write, and they extracted natural resources from the colony with a brutal ferocity…
Compared to these occupations, the United States’ war in Vietnam was a blip on the historical radar. I realized that during my own visit to Vietnam several years ago, when I asked one of my hosts, a physician at a hospital in Hanoi, why there wasn’t more anti-American sentiment in the country. “Before you were the French and the Chinese, and they were here for a lot longer,” he said. “What makes you think you’re so special?”