News / Asia

US Could Scrap Ban on Arms Sales to Vietnam

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey reviews the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi, Aug. 14, 2014.
U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey reviews the honor guard during a welcoming ceremony in Hanoi, Aug. 14, 2014.

The top U.S. military officer traveled to Vietnam last week to help strengthen regional security at a time when Vietnamese fear armed conflict with China over maritime disputes.

The visit by Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, increased prospects that the United States may soon scrap its weapons embargo on Vietnam. But at the same time, Dempsey tempered hopes of heightened military cooperation with a message that Asia should not look to the United States when it clashes with China.

“I think fundamentally we would all agree that a stronger ASEAN response, which is to say a stronger multinational response, is really what’s appropriate -- not necessarily, what does the United States intend to do about it,” Dempsey told a small gathering of reporters here Saturday, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

At issue for Vietnam and China is a swath of water and islands in the South China Sea claimed by both countries as well as four others. Despite repeating the official line that the United States doesn’t “take sides in territorial disputes,” Dempsey mostly referred to the area using the term preferred by Vietnamese, the East Sea. The Philippines, another claimant nation, calls the waters the West Philippine Sea.

Dempsey said that if the weapons ban is repealed, the United States should start by boosting Vietnam’s navy. He noted that Vietnamese military officials haven’t been specific enough as to what hardware they need, but said the two countries are discussing “patrol boats or intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets,” as well as “even potentially some weapons for their fleet that they currently don’t have.”

“There’s a growing sense among our elected officials by our administration, by non-governmental organizations, that Vietnam has made progress against the limitations that led to the lethal weapon ban,” Dempsey said, speaking at the American Center, a cultural and educational annex to the consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

Jonathan London, a professor at the City University of Hong Kong, had a mixed reaction to Dempsey’s remarks.

“The lifting of the arms embargo could be welcome, perhaps, in that it allows Vietnam to be more capable in addressing its security needs,” London said. But he worried that the feuding in the South China Sea “is leading to the militarization of the entire region, an arms race.”

London also said the increased cooperation was part of a larger trend of improving ties between Vietnam and the United States. “Relations between the two countries have entered a new stage,” he said.

Dempsey’s visit is part of a military strategy to “rebalance” toward Asia, which some view as a check on Beijing’s growing influence.

“When I have conversations with my Chinese counterparts about when they assert that we’re trying to contain them or that we are rebalancing against them, it is not against them,” Dempsey said.

Instead, he pointed out that Asia-Pacific is projected to number seven billion of the planet’s nine billion by 2050. Washington is merely anticipating the fact that the region will take on greater importance in the coming decades, Dempsey said.

“The United States has correctly identified that in the future the demographic, economic, diplomatic and security issues of the day will be principally in this region of the world,” he said.

Many Vietnamese, who are vigorously anti-China, seem to be embracing the U.S. rebalance. Readers of VnExpress, a popular news and entertainment website, covered its pages with notes of “welcome” and “thanks” to Dempsey. “I really like the American style. Straight-forward, expressing a clear perspective,” one commenter wrote in response to a story about Dempsey’s arrival. Another commented that Vietnam is “ready to work with the United States for our mutual benefit.”

One of those mutual benefits could be peace. Because Dempsey expects that more of history will be written in Asia, he said it’s essential to global security that the United States focuses its efforts here.

“I personally believe it would be our absence, not our presence, in this region that would be destabilizing,” he said. “Because if we’re absent and then something happens and we flow to it, it will be seen as provocative.  Rather than accepting the fact that we all have interests in international space.”

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid