News / Asia

Vietnamese President Seeks New Relationship With US

Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang answers question from members the audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, July 25, 2013.
Vietnam's President Truong Tan Sang answers question from members the audience at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, July 25, 2013.
Natalie Liu
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is visiting the United States this week.  He met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday. 

Analysts say the Vietnamese president’s visit comes at a time when the Southeast Asian country is facing increasing pressure to decide its future.  U.S. lawmakers and human rights activists have urged the Obama administration to seize the opportunity to push Vietnam in a more democratic direction.  

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted a working lunch for the visiting Vietnamese president on Wednesday.  Kerry sounded a promising note in his speech.

“The Vietnamese have learned from their own history that we all have no permanent enemies, only friends yet to be made,” he said.
Vietnamese President Seeks New Relationship With USi
X
July 26, 2013 9:05 PM
Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang is visiting the United States this week. He met with President Obama at the White House on Thursday. Analysts say the Vietnamese president’s visit comes at a time when the Southeast Asian country is facing increasing pressure to decide its future. Natalie Liu has more.

Almost four decades after the Vietnam War ended, the Southeast Asian country is increasingly looking at the United States for strategic assurance - in a way ironically to counterbalance its communist “big brother” China.

“When Vietnam feels insecure, who is it going to feel insecure about?  Laos? Cambodia? Thailand? The United States is too far away … so China,” said University of Virginia political scientist Brantly Womack, a long-time watcher of U.S-.China-Vietnam relations. 

“Now with the Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea, there’s increasing broadening of the consensus in terms of the perception that China is posing a threat to Vietnam’s sovereignty and territorial integrity," said Alexander Vuving, who is with the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.

For those who wish to see Vietnam transform into a democratic system, tension between Vietnam and China, as well as Vietnam’s increasing reliance on the U.S. for trade and investment, provide a window of opportunity for democratic change in Vietnam.

“One thing that is truly helping right now is the unrelenting aggression from the north, that is, from China," said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang, executive director of the Virginia-based civil rights organization Boat People SOS.  "Vietnam cannot resist that aggression on its own; it is becoming more and more vulnerable to that.  It has to make a decision - either to join with the U.S. and other ASEAN countries to put together a common front to push back the aggression or stay with China." 

Many of Vietnam’s neighbors in Southeast Asia are going through socio-political changes that, until recently, were difficult to imagine.

Burma, for decades under military dictatorship, is going through systemic transformation that has been welcomed by the international community.  The Burmese leadership is keeping its promise to release all political prisoners by the end of the year, in order to see “all to be able to contribute towards the betterment of the country.”  Vietnam’s neighbor, Cambodia, also is holding elections, and its opposition leader has been allowed to return from exile.

Vietnamese leaders are confronted with the fundamental question of which direction the country ought to go, says Vuving.

“Do we want to open up the country?  Do we want to be open to the dissidents and opposition and so on and so forth,” he asked.

Observers say reform-minded officials within the Vietnamese government are still in the minority; for changes from within to happen, a push from the outside could make a difference.  Many hope Vietnam will see the example of Burma and change.

“Just like Burma, there ought to be some pressure from the outside; that might trigger changes from within the system. We’ve seen a lot of talk and a lot of statements - we appreciate that, but we need concrete actions and a timeline from our own government,” said Dr. Nguyen Dinh Thang.

Analysts say high on Sang’s agenda on his visit to the United States is upgrading the bilateral relationship to a “strategic partnership.”

“One of the diplomatic goals of Vietnam is to establish a strategic partnership with each of the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council. The United States is the only one left that it doesn’t have a strategic partnership with,” UVA's Womack said.

In a speech he gave on Wednesday, Sang expressed his country’s desire to see a stronger footprint by the United States in the Asia-Pacific region.

“Amidst a changing regional and world landscape, the major powers, including the United States, have an important role and responsibility in dealing with hotspots in the region such as the East Sea - East China Sea,” he said.

Many members of the U.S. Congress have urged the White House to seize the opportunity and enable a change in Vietnam that will benefit its people.

“If Vietnam wants a closer relationship with the United States, then Vietnam should meet this requirement by the United States in exchange.  We should use our leverage, ” said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce.

“There will never be a matriculation from dictatorship to democracy if we stand with the dictatorship," said Congressman Chris Smith from New Jersey. " So I say ‘meet with presidents like Sang who was not elected by the people as we all know … meet with him, argue with him, but don’t enable him, don’t walk around smiling, having so many photo ops that the plight of the dissidents gets lost.”

How the United States and Vietnam balance human rights, trade and geopolitical considerations will be watched by many in the region, not the least China.

You May Like

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

1 Billion People Used Facebook on Single Day

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the accomplishment in a posting on the social media site More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rich Arant from: Indiana, USA
August 01, 2013 6:25 AM
Read the memoirs of former Vietnamese ambassadors to Thailand and Cambodia, Tran Quang Co and Huynh Anh Dung, for excellent background on this subject. Both are available on the Internet.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs