U.S. Secretary of State Kerry to accompany Obama on Vietnam visit

By Toan Dao   May 14, 2016 | 10:57 pm PT
U.S. Secretary of State Kerry to accompany Obama on Vietnam visit
John Kerry (far right) was photographed with some of his crew aboard a "swift boat" on the Mekong River during the Vietnam War.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, a Vietnam war veteran, will visit his former foe with President Obama next weekend, the White House has said in a recent statement.

Secretary Kerry will travel with President Barack Obama to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City on May 22 -25. The trip aims to underscore the administration’s ongoing commitment to the U.S. Rebalance to Asia and the Pacific, which is designed to increase U.S. diplomatic, economic and security engagement with the countries and peoples of the region.

During the visit, the Secretary will join President Obama in official meetings with Vietnam's leadership to discuss ways for the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership to advance cooperation across a wide range of areas, including economics, people-to-people, security, human rights and global and regional issues. The U.S. guests will also meet with members of civil society, the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative, entrepreneurs and the business community. Discussions in both cities will focus on the importance of approving the Trans-Pacific Partnership this year.

On February 1, 2013, John Forbes Kerry was sworn in as the 68th Secretary of State of the United States, becoming the first sitting Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman to become Secretary in over a century, according to the U.S Department of State.

Shortly before he graduated from Yale University, Secretary Kerry enlisted to serve in the United States Navy, and went on to serve two tours of duty. He served in combat as a Swift Boat skipper patrolling the rivers of the Mekong Delta, returning home from Vietnam with a Silver Star, a Bronze Star with Combat V, and three Purple Hearts.

Back in the United States, Secretary Kerry began to forcefully speak out against the Vietnam War. Testifying at the invitation of Chairman J. William Fulbright before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he asked the poignant question, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" He also began a lifelong fight for his fellow veterans as a co-founder of the Vietnam Veterans of America, and later as a United States Senator who fought to secure veterans’ benefits, extension of the G.I. Bill for Higher Education, and improved treatment for PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

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