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July 21, 2013

Washington Week: Focus on US-Asia Ties

by Michael Bowman

America’s deepening commitment to the Asia-Pacific region will be highlighted this week, as President Barack Obama hosts Vietnam’s president at the White House. The encounter occurs 40 years after the end of U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War, and at a time of growing trade and security ties between Washington and Hanoi.

South China Sea maritime disputes will likely figure prominently in Thursday’s discussions between President Obama and President Truong Tan Sang.  Secretary of State John Kerry pledged America’s continued engagement at an ASEAN summit earlier this month.

“We have a strong interest in the manner in which the disputes of the South China Sea are addressed and in the conduct of the parties," he said.

The White House says Presidents Obama and Sang will also discuss human-rights concerns, climate change, and economic ties.  The meeting will be closely watched by America’s Vietnamese immigrant community.

"I am an American, and I am speaking out for the people of Vietnam because they are not free to speak. I have to be the voice for those imprisoned by the communist government," said Vietnamese-American activist Kristy Nguyen.

On the domestic front, work continues in the House of Representatives on an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws.  The Senate passed a comprehensive reform bill weeks ago that would dramatically boost border security while providing a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants.  The citizenship provision faces strong opposition from many conservative lawmakers in the Republican-controlled House.

House Speaker John Boehner has said he hopes the chamber will deal with immigration before Congress turns its attention to once again raising the U.S. debt ceiling.  The federal government is expected to reach its borrowing limit around October.