News / USA

Vietnam-US Talks to Cover Trade, Human Rights, China

Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang arrives in Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 27, 2013.
Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang arrives in Merdeka Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, June 27, 2013.
Marianne Brown
On Thursday, President Truong Tan Sang will become the second Vietnamese head of state to visit the White House since the two countries normalized relations nearly 20 years ago. The talks are expected to cover the two countries’ increasing trade, Hanoi’s relations with China and U.S. concerns over Vietnam’s human rights record.  

The United States is Vietnam’s second largest trading partner after China and Vietnam's proposed participation in the U.S.-led free-trade organization, the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP], is likely to be high on the agenda.

Vietnam's youthful population and rising economic growth make it an attractive market for many U.S. firms. Last week, McDonalds, the U.S.-based fast food giant, became the latest global food brand to announce it would open a franchise in the country.

At a press conference in Hanoi last week, foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi said bilateral relations have grown since the two countries normalized relations in July of 1995.

He said the United States and Vietnam have agreed to establish a friendly, constructive partnership on the basis of equality, mutual respect, and benefits.

Human rights

But there are continuing differences over U.S. objections to Vietnam’s worsening record on human rights. So far this year, the international rights group Human Rights Watch says Vietnam has handed down more jail sentences to religious leaders, dissidents and bloggers than the whole of 2012.

This month's trial of dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan was postponed indefinitely. Jailed blogger Dieu Cay was described as “very weak” as he conducts a hunger strike against prison conditions.
Vietnamese activist Trinh Kim Tien said she hopes that human rights will be a prominent part of the U.S.-Vietnam talks.  She said Obama has highlighted Dieu Cay's case before and should do something now to help his family before it’s too late.

With such stories drawing attention abroad, analysts are watching to see what impact they will have in the discussions with U.S. officials. Defense analyst Professor Carl Thayer points to the U.S. policy of rebalancing its influence toward the Asia-Pacific.

“I’m guessing, that if America only plays the human rights card they’re shooting themselves in the foot in trying to advance strategic relationship with Vietnam," Thayer said. "The larger game of rebalancing is access, shaping, security outlets and improving maritime security, and how far is Vietnam willing to go with China."

Vietnamese diplomacy maintains a careful balancing act between the United States and China, particularly regarding China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

During  Sang’s trip to Beijing last month, the two communist countries agreed to set up an emergency hotline to help resolve territorial disputes that have occasionally strained their relations. But not everyone agrees that things are going well between them.
Retired diplomat and Vietnam expert David Brown believes Vietnam’s relationship with China has stalled since talks in October 2011, partly over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

"My reading on that was that a year and a half ago the Chinese agreed at least to talk about the Paracels [islands], not about giving them back, but at least about allowing the Vietnamese certain kinds of access there and in the seas around them, and the Vietnamese side said 'okay, we’ll talk about that.' But it seems those discussions have gone nowhere at all," he said.

Brown said those tensions over the Paracels are partly why the United States will be in a strong position during the talks, since Vietnam and other countries in Southeast Asia see Washington as a counterbalance to China’s maritime ambitions.
Also with other U.S. allies in the region like the Philippines and Singapore, Brown points out that Washington is not interested in seeking a stronger military presence in Vietnam to offset China. This is why, he said, the United States could have more leverage on discussions on human rights.

You May Like

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Bill Tran
July 26, 2013 10:50 PM
Remember the lesson that we learned from the Paris Peace accord ? The US and Viet Cong used each other to get what they wanted. In prsent day geopolitics, China 's enormous economiy dominates the world and Vietnam is becoming irrelevant and isolated. So the odd couple is back again to use each other to get what they want to have. The ultimate betrayal or payback to VN is that the US will use VN to get what they want and then hand/sell out VN back to China. Remember that VN economy/market is tiny compare to China's therefore when a company wants to make an investment they always think about the return-on-investment to make that decision. We all know by now that the US can sell out their allied friends in a heart beat. Perhaps another lesson to be learned. Let's wait and see.

by: lapazjim from: USA
July 25, 2013 10:01 AM
What I see as bad about this is not the fact that we have now had foreign relations with Vietnam for awhile,but that we are having them with a country in a war the US essentially lost and took the lives of so many Americans.So basically its going to be like all is forgiven!! Strange that the US government can do this for Vietnam,but refuses to try for normal ties with Cuba.The Us did not fight a war with Cuba that they lost or that cost US lives.What happened with them was the Cuban missile crisis which was done long ago and long before Vietnam.

True that the US did not like Castro,but remember he is no longer in power and instead of seizing the moment to get some form of ties with them the government chose to ignore them.Hell of a government we have!! I am not a Cuban or any type of anything other than a US supporter.I am just asking why an attempt was not made and that's all. Now with Vietnam jumping back on board with the US is Obama going to throw money(that the US does not have)at them like his source is never going to dry up??

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs