Obama lifts US arms embargo on Vietnam in historic move

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Obama in Vietnam
Obama, Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang

It’s 41 years and three weeks after the fall of Saigon that ended the United States’ barbaric war in Vietnam, one of the biggest disgraces in American warfare – but today the former arch-enemies have become the biggest friends and partners in trade.

Now, US President Barack Obama even lifted the longstanding lethal weapons sale embargo imposed on the country exactly in 1975 when the US army was forced to flee from the advancing Vietcong.

The move is widely seen as a decision that reflects growing concerns about China’s military clout, two years after the embargo had already been eased to some extent.

Obama made the announcement on May 23 during a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang shortly after arriving in Hanoi for the start of a visit to Vietnam and Japan.

The new arrangement would allow the US to sell military weapons to Vietnam on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on improvements in the country on human rights and freedom of expression, White House officials said.

Observers see the move as the reflection of a maturing relationship and deepening cooperation on security and economic investment between the US and Vietnam. The normalisation began in 1995 “is poised to be elevated to a new level,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Vietnam is the only communist member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among a dozen Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Obama and supporters of the TPP say it will open markets for all members, a welcome prospect in a young and increasingly entrepreneurial Vietnam.

At Obama’s visit, both presidents attended a signing ceremony celebrating a series of new commercial deals between US and Vietnamese companies. The White House said the value of the transactions was more than $16 billion, including the delivery of Boeing planes to Vietnam’s budget airline VietJet and wind turbines made by General Electric. Furthermore, Intel, Microsoft and Ford are planning top expand operations in Vietnam.

Reuters noted that, “There has been much excitement about Obama’s visit in a country with a young population firmly behind closer US ties and resentful of their economic dependence on China.”

China is currently Vietnam’s biggest trade partner and source of imports, but trade with the US is growing fast, about ten-fold over the past two decades to about $45 billion. Meanwhile, Vietnam has become Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the US.

Unsurprisingly, China’s state news service Xinhua reacted negatively to Obama’s visit to Vietnam, accusing the US of having “shown no restraint in meddling in a regional situation” in the South China Sea.

The conflict escalated in recent years after China installed an oil drilling rig off the coast of Vietnam within the exclusive 200-mile economic zone established under international law. The Chinese military has embarked on a massive land reclamation project in the disputed Spratly Islands, prompting the US Navy to conduct two missions aimed at dissuading Beijing from militarising the area.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

Obama, Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang

It’s 41 years and three weeks after the fall of Saigon that ended the United States’ barbaric war in Vietnam, one of the biggest disgraces in American warfare – but today the former arch-enemies have become the biggest friends and partners in trade.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Obama in Vietnam
Obama, Ho Chi Minh and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang

It’s 41 years and three weeks after the fall of Saigon that ended the United States’ barbaric war in Vietnam, one of the biggest disgraces in American warfare – but today the former arch-enemies have become the biggest friends and partners in trade.

Now, US President Barack Obama even lifted the longstanding lethal weapons sale embargo imposed on the country exactly in 1975 when the US army was forced to flee from the advancing Vietcong.

The move is widely seen as a decision that reflects growing concerns about China’s military clout, two years after the embargo had already been eased to some extent.

Obama made the announcement on May 23 during a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang shortly after arriving in Hanoi for the start of a visit to Vietnam and Japan.

The new arrangement would allow the US to sell military weapons to Vietnam on a case-by-case basis and is dependent on improvements in the country on human rights and freedom of expression, White House officials said.

Observers see the move as the reflection of a maturing relationship and deepening cooperation on security and economic investment between the US and Vietnam. The normalisation began in 1995 “is poised to be elevated to a new level,” said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Vietnam is the only communist member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among a dozen Asian and Pacific Rim nations. Obama and supporters of the TPP say it will open markets for all members, a welcome prospect in a young and increasingly entrepreneurial Vietnam.

At Obama’s visit, both presidents attended a signing ceremony celebrating a series of new commercial deals between US and Vietnamese companies. The White House said the value of the transactions was more than $16 billion, including the delivery of Boeing planes to Vietnam’s budget airline VietJet and wind turbines made by General Electric. Furthermore, Intel, Microsoft and Ford are planning top expand operations in Vietnam.

Reuters noted that, “There has been much excitement about Obama’s visit in a country with a young population firmly behind closer US ties and resentful of their economic dependence on China.”

China is currently Vietnam’s biggest trade partner and source of imports, but trade with the US is growing fast, about ten-fold over the past two decades to about $45 billion. Meanwhile, Vietnam has become Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the US.

Unsurprisingly, China’s state news service Xinhua reacted negatively to Obama’s visit to Vietnam, accusing the US of having “shown no restraint in meddling in a regional situation” in the South China Sea.

The conflict escalated in recent years after China installed an oil drilling rig off the coast of Vietnam within the exclusive 200-mile economic zone established under international law. The Chinese military has embarked on a massive land reclamation project in the disputed Spratly Islands, prompting the US Navy to conduct two missions aimed at dissuading Beijing from militarising the area.

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