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

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students 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.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

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

All About America

AppleAndroid