Vietnam has deported an American woman convicted by a court last week on terrorism charges. Her early release from prison comes days ahead of President Bush's visit to Vietnam for a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders.
U.S. Embassy officials here in the Vietnamese capital confirmed Thuong Nguyen "Cuc" Foshee was on an early Monday flight out of Ho Chi Minh City after a court ordered her immediate deportation - about a month ahead of her scheduled release.
Vietnamese officials cited humanitarian reasons due to the 58-year old Foshee's health problems.
Her repatriation comes as Vietnam prepares to host President Bush and other Asia-Pacific leaders later this week.
Vietnamese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Le Dung says the move should smooth bilateral relations.
"I think it's good for her and good for the relations between Vietnam and the United States," Dung says. "They are interested in this case."
U.S. officials had been in discussions with Vietnam on the cases of Foshee and two other Americans of Vietnamese decent sentenced Friday. A court found them and four Vietnamese guilty of plotting to broadcast messages against Hanoi's communist government.
The court ordered them to spend 15 months in prison on terrorism charges, but took time served into account and said they would be released in December. The group was arrested in September of 2005.
The Foshee case has been a stumbling block to better trade relations. Foshee's Senate representative had been holding up passage of legislation granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations.
Vietnam counts the United States as its top trading partner and just this month was admitted to the World Trade Organization.
Analysts say Hanoi does not want any issue to eclipse its quest to be a responsible player in the global trading system. William Case, an expert on Asian and International studies at the City University of Hong Kong, says the Foshee case gave Hanoi a good opportunity to demonstrate its resolve.
"Vietnam is trying to generate a more liberal imagery, one that is more accommodating to APEC and the W.T.O. It's trying to encourage foreign investment," Case says. "It wants to engage in the global economy and in consequence wants to send the right political signals."
Vietnamese authorities accused Foshee of working with a U.S.-based exile group that the communist leadership considers a terrorist organization.
U.S. officials Monday said they were pleased by the release and are continuing to try to help the other Americans who are still jailed.