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Dempsey said that if the weapons ban is repealed, the United States should start by boosting Vietnam’s navy.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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'i
X
Scott Stearns
September 23, 2014 10:52 PM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video US, Gulf Allies Strike Islamic State Militants in Syria

United States forces have carried out strikes against Islamic State or ISIL militant positions in Syria - the first time Western forces have taken action on Syrian soil. Five U.S. allies from the Gulf joined the military action. Local reports suggest dozens of militants were killed. The U.S. also carried out unilateral missile strikes against a Syria-based terror group which Washington says poses an imminent threat to the West. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video High Intensity Focused Ultrasound Used to Kill Cancer Tumor

There is a new way of killing certain cancer tumors that allows the patient to go home on the same day. Surgeons at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California became the first doctors to use this procedure on a patient with the help of high intensity focused ultrasound, or HIFU, and new robotic technology. Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in Five Countries

Hollywood stars Alicia Keys, Jennifer Garner and 30 others have voiced their support for a U.S.-backed initiative called "Let Girls Learn." The $231 million program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, is aimed at ensuring public and quality education for girls worldwide. As VOA's Mariama Diallo reports, this new program will focus on five countries in Africa, South Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.
Video

Video UN: Relocation of Bedouins in Israel Weakens Two-state Solution

Rural Bedouins living in disputed lands east of Jerusalem could soon find themselves forcibly relocated. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Jerusalem that while Israel defends the move as in the Bedouins’ best interests, the United Nations says the plan threatens the survival of the two-state solution with Palestinians.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Prolonged Drought Plagues SW Oklahoma Farmers

Parts of western Texas and southwestern Oklahoma have been in drought conditions for several years running and the deficit in rainfall has taken a heavy toll on cotton and grain production. Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin says the state has suffered $2 billion in agricultural losses since 2011. There has been rain in recent weeks, but, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Altus, Oklahoma, for most farmers it has been too late.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid