Vietnam asks U.S. to "fully lift" the ban on weapon sales

By Tran Le Thuy   May 1, 2016 | 11:38 am GMT+7
Vietnam asks U.S. to "fully lift" the ban on weapon sales
Ambassador Pham Quang Vinh in . Photo by Vietnam Embassy in USA.

Vietnam's ambassador to the U.S. Pham Quang Vinh has asked the U.S. to open arms trade to Vietnam and recognize Vietnam's market economy status, which will be "a favorable background for the upcoming visit to Vietnam by President Barack Obama," according to a statement on the Embassy's website.

"Vietnam calls on the US to totally lift the arms embargo on Vietnam and believes that this element of barrier of the past should be removed to reflect the full normalization of our relations started two decades ago and the current level of our comprehensive partnership," said ambassador Pham Quang Vinh at the Viet Nam War Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, April 28. 

"A new era has begun", the Ambassador said, "the countries’ top leaders affirmed the principle of respecting each other’s political institution, independence and sovereignty". 

He has raised "concern over recent developments" in East Vietnam Sea and said Vietnam supports the maintenance of peace, maritime security, unimpeded commerce and freedom of navigation in the area. "All countries concerned must abide by international law, especially the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), resort to peaceful resolution of disputes, refrain from actions that raise tensions, implement fully the DOC and work for the early conclusion of the COC."

The ambassador said Vietnam and the U.S. "will continue our bilateral cooperation in defense and security areas, as outlined in the two countries' Joint Vision Statement on Defense Relations (June 2015) and the Defense Cooperation MOU (2011), including in the area of maritime security, search and rescue, disaster relief, and peace-keeping".

President Obama is expected to make his first visit to Vietnam this month.  "The two sides are making every effort of preparations to ensure the visit a success, which will further strengthen our two countries' relations," said the Ambassador.

He said U.S assistance in innovation and start-up, and in dealing with climate change and sea level rise in the Mekong delta are priorities. Vietnam is also working with the U.S. in "the area of civil nuclear energy". "We have been able to talk also on issues of differences, such as human rights," he said. 

In terms of war legacy issues, Vietnam "expects the U.S. to give more assistance to Vietnam, in both funding and technology, in the clearance of UXO and dioxin remediation, including new projects such as at the Bien Hoa airport." They have prioritized the joint settlement of war consequences, such as unexploded ordnance clearance, detoxification, and health care for people exposed to agent organge/Dioxin, the diplomat added. 

Bilateral trade between Vietnam and the U.S. has rocketed by 90 times over two decades, from USD500 million in 1994 to USD45 billion in 2015. The ambassador said the figure is expected to increase after the member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership finish ratifying the deal.

Currently, Viet Nam is the ASEAN nation with the biggest number of students (19,000) in the U.S. More than 500,000 U.S. tourists came to this Southeast Asian country last year.

Last year, General Secretary of Vietnam's Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong made "the first-ever, historic visit" to the U.S., in which the General Secretary and President Obama met at the Oval Office and issued a Joint Vision Statement on strengthening further the two countries' comprehensive partnership.