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 Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More