Ambassador highlights trust in Vietnam-US relations

By Minh Nga   June 22, 2020 | 04:31 pm PT
Trust and mutual respect play a key role in supporting the relationship between former foes Vietnam and the U.S., its ambassador to Hanoi said.

"Trust is the foundation of every good relationship and if we look back the past 25 years I think it’s remarkable how far we have come and how much trust we have built," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink.

For Vietnam and the U.S., it is a friendship and partnership built on the foundation of trust and mutual respect, he told the press at a meeting in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday.

What the two nations have been working on is apparently building a strong future with a broad area of cooperation, from economics and trade to security and people-to-people ties, but it needs to keep in mind that in order to have the foundation of trust, it needs to be responsible for issues of the past. Reconciliation has remained a key aspect in the relationship between the two former war enemies, he said.

On Sunday, Kritenbrink became the first American ambassador ever to visit HCMC Military Cemetery, where 14,000 Vietnamese martyrs, most of whom killed in the Vietnam War, are laid to rest, along with Consul General Marie Damour and Colonel Thomas Stevenson, newly-appointed U.S. Defense Attaché to Vietnam.

The visit was made at a time when the U.S. and Vietnam celebrate the 25th anniversary of the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations. The official ceremony for celebration is expected to be held both in Vietnam and the U.S. on July 11 and 12.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink offers burning incense sticks at the HCMC Military Cemetery in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City as Thomas Stevenson, U.S. Defense Attaché to Vietnam, stands behind. Photo by the U.S. Consulate General HCMC.

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink offers burning incense at the HCMC Military Cemetery in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City as Thomas Stevenson, U.S. Defense Attaché to Vietnam, stands behind, June 21, 2020. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Consulate General HCMC.

He also visited Binh An Cemetery in Binh Duong Province that neighbors HCMC on Sunday. This is where most soldiers of the South Vietnam Army in the Vietnam War are laid to rest.

Last year, Kritenbrink was also the first ever U.S. ambassador to Vietnam to visit Truong Son Cemetery for soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. Over 10,000 Vietnamese soldiers killed during the war (1955-1975) were laid to rest in the cemetery in Gio Linh District, Quang Tri Province in central Vietnam.

"I do think it [the visit] will help build trust between the two countries and their people, and by doing so I hope I could make a small contribution to promoting reconciliation between our two countries," Kritenbrink said.

"Building trust is a two-way street. Together we have to continue to build trust and part of it is what I have said about dealing responsibly with our issues in the past," he said.

The ambassador added to the list of what the U.S. has been doing to deal with the past, including cleaning up dioxin, including at Bien Hoa, a former U.S. air base and the most contaminated spot in the country in Dong Nai Province that neighbors HCMC, and dealing with unexploded ordnances like mines and bombs in places across Vietnam, especially in the central region.

He also thanked the Vietnamese government and people for helping in locating missing American soldiers.

For the two’s current relationship, Kritenbrink said he believes the future is "very bright" because "we do trust one another."

For the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in February last year, "of all the places we could have gone to ask for help in hosting the summit, we came to Vietnam, and we did that because we trust Vietnam, we have respect for Vietnam and we think Vietnam has great capability."

He added the U.S. and Vietnam have continuously confronted challenges together, whether they are problems in the East Sea, or South China Sea, or tackling Covid-19 together.

For Covid-19 alone, he praised Vietnam’s response to the pandemic as the best in the world - it has helped lead the way and the success belongs to Vietnam. The U.S. is proud to have helped Vietnam improve its healthcare capacity in the last 20 years by funding it $100 million, with a further approved $10 million to help the country cope with Covid-19, he said.

Mutual interest in East Sea

East Sea is the most important security issue for Vietnam, and the future peace and stability here is vital to America as well, said the ambassador.

Vietnam and the U.S.’s view and interests on this issue are almost completely aligned, he said.

Both sides believe in peacefully resolving disputes in accordance with international laws, and that all countries, big and small, should play by the rules, basing their claims on international law. Neither country believes that large countries should bully small ones, because all countries have the right to develop their resources.

"So we have deep and fundamental concerns over the activities that our friends in China have carried out in the East Sea in the past several years."

"China has seemed to take advantage of the Covid-19 situation to more aggressively advance its claims in the sea, and it’s not just the issue related to territory but energy resources and fishing stocks, and we think it is inappropriate that China continues to engage in very aggressive behaviors to intimidate the region to prevent countries like Vietnam developing their rightful claims to the resources in the sea," he said.

For that, he promised the U.S. "will remain committed to the principles we believe in, and we will continue to engage in our policies with partners like Vietnam. We will continue to invest in building the capacity that involve partners in the region like Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines."

Kritenbrink said the U.S. will support energy companies engaging in commercial activities like ExxonMobil LNG Market Development Inc, whose president said in a phone call to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on June 11 that his company wants to explore investment opportunities in Vietnam's energy sector.

The U.S. has funded $450 million to build Vietnam’s maritime capacity since 2012 and Kritenbrink said the second U.S.-ASEAN maritime drill is on the agenda after the first one in September last year, though an exact date has yet to be scheduled.

The U.S. will also build its own capacities, including military capacities and continue carrying out activities related to navigation operations to ensure all countries follow international laws, he said.

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