Obama ends US arms embargo on Vietnam during visit to former enemy – USA TODAY

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President Obama announced in Hanoi, Vietnam that the U.S. has lifted the arms embargo on Vietnam that dated back to the 1960s. The president said the U.S. will continue to analyze weapons sales case-by-case. (May 23)

HANOI, Vietnam — President Obama lifted a decades-long American arms embargo on Vietnam Monday and touted a new friendship with the United States’ former enemy.

“Just a generation ago, we were adversaries and now we are friends,” Obama said during a news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang 41 years after the end of the Vietnam War.

Obama also predicted eventual passage of another element of the emerging American-Vietnamese relationship: The Trans-Pacific Partnership, the proposed 12-nation trade deal currently stalled in the U.S. Congress. Vietnam is one of the member countries.

Other signs of cooperation between the former combatants include new business sales, more military cooperation, research programs involving universities in both countries, and cultural exchanges that include the introduction of the U.S. Peace Corps to Vietnam, Obama said.

Obama, who arrived here Sunday night, was greeted by small but enthusiastic crowds at the airport and along the motorcade route to his hotel. The capital city of narrow alleys and wide colonial-era boulevards closed 30 streets for the president’s visit on Monday, creating a chaotic traffic snarl.

As Obama made the rounds on Monday, from a welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace to meetings with Vietnam’s top government officials, he remained a popular topic of discussion among Vietnamese.

Le Van Mai, 84, said Obama’s visit signaled a new era in relations between the former enemies. “The war is in the past now and everything is fresh between Vietnam and the U.S.,” Mai said. Obama’s “visit can show the bond between the two countries.”

Mai said he fought as a soldier not against the U.S. but the French, who retreated from Vietnam in 1954 after a crushing defeat at Dien Bien Phu. He lived in Hanoi during the Vietnam War, and recalled the bombing and suffering Vietnamese endured. Yet  all that is in the past, he added: “Our country has moved on. We agree that we want to ease the past and embrace unity between Vietnam and the U.S.”

First-year accounting student Nguyen Thi Tu Trinh, 18, said she is proud Obama is visiting her country. “I think the U.S. and Vietnam should be closer and cooperate in so many aspects,” she said.

Young Vietnamese are as internet-savvy as their peers around the world, and Trinh said she has been following the president’s visit on the local news and via social media, where friends posted their photos of sightings of Obama’s motorcade around the city.

As word of the president’s announcement that he was lifting the arms embargo spread, some residents welcomed the gesture in light of a contentious relationship with giant neighbor China,which is engaged in a territorial dispute with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

“Like everyone else, I don’t want any conflict” said Nguyen Dinh Toan, 63, who drives one of the ubiquitous motorbike taxis known as xe om. “But if the U.S. can help us, that would be good. It’s a big leap for both countries. I want the bond to be strengthened even more.”

After a morning meeting with Vietnam’s president, Obama signed a series of bilateral agreements, including one for an $11 billion purchase of 100 Boeing 737 aircraft by Vietnamese airline Vietjet Air. He then met with the recently elected chairwoman of Vietnam’s National Assembly, Nyguyen Thi Kim Ngan, at a rustic stilt house on the grounds of the presidential palace which Ho Chi Minh, the iconic communist leader and president of former North Vietnam, used as a residence.

Obama described the arms embargo as “a lingering vestige of the Cold War” that is no longer necessary as the U.S. and Vietnam continue the process of normalizing relations.

He said the decision to fully end the embargo, which the United States partially lifted in 2014, has nothing to do with the growing Chinese military presence in the region, though he also declared that the change will guarantee that Vietnam has “access to the equipment it needs to defend itself.” Obama said that, as with any country, each weapons sale to Hanoi will be evaluated on a “case-by-case” basis.

“We examine what’s appropriate and what’s not,” he said.




U.S. President Barack Obama started his visit to Vietnam on Monday, looking to bolster trade ties with the government, and possibly lift an arms export embargo. He also plans to meet with dissidents and push for greater human rights freedoms. (May 2

Obama also said that the United States and Vietnam continue to have differences over human rights. His administration has protested the number of Vietnamese political prisoners.

In a nod to the war that ended in 1975, Obama thanked Vietnam’s government for helping the U.S. locate the remains of missing soldiers, and he pledged to help the Vietnamese government with the ongoing removal of land mines and un-exploded ordnance left over from the conflict.

Obama, who met with Vietnamese leaders throughout the day in the capital of Hanoi, also hailed the more than $16 billion in new business agreements between the two nations, including plans by VietJet to buy 100 airplanes from Boeing and 135 advanced engines from Pratt & Whitney.

The president travels to Ho Chi Minh City, the nation’s commercial center, on Tuesday.

The biggest mutual investment between the two countries involves the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership.

While the deal has drawn opposition from lawmakers in the U.S. Congress — as well as presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Bernie Sanders — Obama predicted to his audience in Vietnam that the pact will be approved, though “the politics of it will be noisy.”

While critics say low-wage countries like Vietnam would take jobs from the United States under the trade deal, Obama said the TPP includes labor protections, and will open up markets for American products throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

“This is the fastest growing part of the world,” the president said.

Just before the news conference in Hanoi, Obama confirmed the death of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansoor in a written statement issued by the White House.

“We have removed the leader of an organization that has continued to plot against and unleash attacks on American and Coalition forces, to wage war against the Afghan people, and align itself with extremist groups like al-Qaeda,” Obama said.

Jackson reported from Ho Chi Minh City.

Obama ends US arms embargo on Vietnam during visit to former enemy – USA TODAY

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