News / Asia

Vietnamese President to Visit Washington

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
— Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang has been invited to Washington to meet U.S. President Barack Obama on July 25 - the first visit by a Vietnamese head-of-state since 2007. The news comes as the trial of a dissident lawyer highlighted human rights issues in the communist country.

Although Vietnam has been pressing the United States for this visit for more than a year, the decision appears to have been made at the last minute, said defense analyst and professor Carl Thayer from the University of New South Wales in Australia.

“John Kerry was supposed to go in July but Syria overtook and the Vietnamese were saying we haven’t heard back from the Americans, nothing’s happening on that front, all of a sudden something has happened, I’m just reading the tea leaves here, I think it’s part of [President] Sang’s visit to China and the very positive atmosphere that’s created,” he explained.

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 President Sang’s visit to Beijing last month the two communist countries agreed to set up an emergency hotline to help quickly resolve territorial disputes that have occasionally strained relations between them.

The United States is Vietnam’s second largest trading partner after China, and the two countries have boosted military-to-military talks in recent years. But there are continuing differences over U.S. objections to Vietnam’s record on human rights.

Earlier this week, Vietnamese authorities indefinitely postponed the trial of dissident lawyer Le Quoc Quan. The outspoken blogger is one of Vietnam’s most active human rights advocates. Thayer said the trial’s postponement and Sang’s upcoming visit could be connected.

“It would seem postponing the trial at the moment with Sang’s visit could be related, I’m guessing it is," said Thayer. "Then the Vietnamese have the opportunity afterwards to decide what action to take.”

Quan, 41, wrote a blog and took part in several anti-China marches in the capital.  He was often quoted in foreign media on human rights issues.

In 2006 he spent five months in Washington researching civil society under a National Endowment for Democracy fellowship. He was arrested four days after returning to Vietnam and released several months later.

In the run-up to his arrest in December, he complained about increasing police harassment of him and his family.

He is accused of tax evasion, a charge which carries a maximum penalty of seven years in jail. Human Rights Watch described the charge as “spurious.”

Vigil for Le Quoc Quan, July 7, 2013Vigil for Le Quoc Quan, July 7, 2013
x
Vigil for Le Quoc Quan, July 7, 2013
Vigil for Le Quoc Quan, July 7, 2013
His brother Le Dinh Quan was arrested in October last year on the same charges.
At a candlelit vigil on Sunday in the capital, hundreds of people gathered to show their support for the lawyer. Among them was his mother Nguyen Thi Tram.

She said she has not been allowed to visit or speak to her two sons since they were detained.

Trade and the South China Sea dispute are expected to top the agenda in Washington, but neither side can avoid the thorny issue of human rights.

You May Like

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid