President Barack Obama says the United States is lifting a decades-old ban on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam.
The move will end a “lingering vestige of the Cold War”and pave the way for the full normalization of diplomatic ties, the Wall Street Journal reports.
It comes amid heightened concern about China, as well as criticism that the Obama administration has given up one of the levers the US still has to press Vietnam into allowing greater freedom of expression and political dissent.
On Monday, Obama joined Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang at a press conference.
Obama said arms sales will have to meet certain requirements, including conditions related to human rights.
He said the US is “fully lifting the ban on the sale of military equipment”, with the aim of ensuring Vietnam has the ability to protect itself.
Quang welcomed the move, which his government has pushed for.
He said Vietnam respects human rights and that Hanoi and Washington will work together to minimize differences on the issue.
The US and Vietnam increasingly share common interests and Obama’s visit “actively contributes to regional and global peace and stability”, he said.
The policy shift suggests Washington sees improved security ties with Vietnam as more pressing than extracting further political reforms from Hanoi.
Implicit in the president’s remarks were worries the two countries share about China.
The US has backed smaller countries against Beijing in calling for regional disputes over resources and territory to be settled by multilateral talks, though it has taken no position on the disputes themselves.
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