Vietnam Time

5/24/2016 9:28:54 PM

US lifting its lethal arms embargo on Vietnam, a historic move in bilateral relations

The Obama administration announced Monday that the United States would fully lift its long-standing ban on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam. This is a historic move in the normalization of Vietnam – US relations.

“An irregularity” in bilateral relations

The US lethal arms embargo on Vietnam has been in place since 1984 as a product of bilateral hostility in the Cold War. Though normalization of relations was made, this ban still remained as an “irregularity” in the bilateral relations, said Dr. Zachary Abuza, Professor at the National War College (Washington DC ).

During his final year in office, President Obama was determined to repair the mistakes of US foreign policy, by the removal of the arms embargo on Vietnam, normalization of relations with Cuba, and being the first sitting president of the US to visit Hiroshima (Japan) which suffered the first nuclear bomb of the US.

The president’s lifting of the arms embargo on Vietnam will help promote bilateral relations. Though there still exists criticism of Vietnam in the US Congress, both Democrats and Republicans actually support this move. Significantly, as the US lifts the arms embargo on Vietnam, it will raise Vietnam's feeling of being trusted by the US, said Dr. Zachary Abuza.

Historic move

In the context of the US trying to bolster its relationship with its Pacific allies, this move is not related to US policy on China.

“The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other consideration. It’s based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam,” Mr Obama said in Hanoi during meetings with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang.

According Mr Tran Dai Quang, the removal of the embargo was “clearly proof  that both countries have completely normalized relations.”Calling this decision “powerful symbolism”, BBC said, up to now, Vietnam has relied mainly on Russia for its defence equipment. The government would certainly like to diversity its sources and is looking at a number of potential alternative suppliers, but it won’t be rushing into the arms of US manufacturers just yet.

As BBC analysed, one reason is that a lot of US technology may be too sophisticated and expensive for Vietnam’s needs. Another reason is the complicated process of procuring US weapons.

According to CNN, this move will develop strategic partnership and be a symbol of renewed ties.

Nguyen Ngoc Truong, president of Vietnam’s Centre for Strategic and Studies and International Development, considered the move as an important development between the two countries.

“This is very good news, it is of great importance for Vietnam,” he said. “It does not mean Vietnam will be a very big buyer of American weapons straight away, but it is important for the future. The symbolism is more important.”

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said Beijing is “pleased to see Vietnam developing normal relationships with all countries including the United States, and we hope it benefits regional peace, stability and development.”

Milestones in Vietnam – US relations

On 11 July 1995, U.S president Bill Clinton and Vietnam Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet announced the decision to normalize diplomatic ties.

On 12 May, 1997, the two countries exchanged ambassadors.

In July 2000, the two sides officially signed the Vietnam – US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA).

On 16 November, 2000, President Bill Cinton paid an official visit to Vietnam. This was the first visit to Vietnam by a sitting U.S President after the end of the war in 1975.

In November 2006, President George W. Bush visited Vietnam. During this visit, President Bush signed a draft regulation on permanent normal trade relations with Vietnam.

In June 2008, PM Nguyen Tan Dung paid a high-ranking visit to Washington where the two sides agreed to hold strategic security dialogues at the deputy minister level.

In July 2013, State President Truong Tan Sang paid an official visit to the U.S. The two sides established a comprehensive partnership.In October 2014, Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh visited the U.S. During this trip Mr. Kerry announced that the U.S would partially lift the lethal weapons embargo on Vietnam.

In July 2015, Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, paid an official visit to the U.S in order to promote the comprehensive partnership and work out orientations for future cooperation./.



Ha Thuong  
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