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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Kurdish service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions 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.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs