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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  14 July 2015  

US, Viet Nam promote an Asian 21st century

HA NOI (VNS) — The 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and Viet Nam was a critical moment to reflect on the past and look forward to a better future for both countries in the Asia-Pacific and the world.

Pham Binh Minh, a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, said this yesterday in an article to mark the 20th anniversary of Viet Nam-US diplomatic ties.

Following, we reprint the article:

Twenty years is a long period in one's life time. Yet, it is merely a fleeting moment in the history of relations between nations.

Few people could have imagined that Viet Nam and the United States would make such great bilateral strides in two decades of normalised relations.

When this happened in 1995, Viet Nam was known to most Americans as a war rather than a country. Today, the word "Viet Nam" has become familiar in the daily life of Americans.

Vietnamese goods, from agricultural produce and footwear to other consumer staples are sold in most major US stores. In the past 20 years, especially since the signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in 2000, economic and trade ties between the two countries have really taken off.

From a modest figure of US$400 million in 1994, bilateral trade increased by 90 folds to $36.3 billion in 2014. In 2014, exports to the US were $30.6 billion, making Viet Nam the number one ASEAN exporter to the US market. Viet Nam even surpassed India, joining the list of top 10 net exporters to the world's largest consumer market.

In the last five years, the US jumped from the 11th to the seventh largest investor in Viet Nam with a total capital of $11 billion. Some major US groups have moved their production base to Viet Nam while others are planning to follow.

This opens up the prospect for the US to become the largest investor in the country, a target set out by Ambassador Ted Osius. It is expected the economic ties between Viet Nam and the US could skyrocket in the near future with the conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Such giant steps forward in economic co-operation are accompanied by the upward trend in science-technology and education co-operation. Viet Nam-US co-operation in key industries ranging from wind power and aerospace research to peaceful use of nuclear energy has seen new progress, especially following the US Congress' ratification of the Agreement on Civil Nuclear Energy Co-operation (123 Agreement) in 2014.

The number of Vietnamese students studying in the US has increased by 34 times from 500 students in 1995 to 17,000 students at present. Viet Nam is the top country in ASEAN and the eighth in the world having students studying in the US. Viet Nam and the US are also working on a project to establish a Fulbright University in Viet Nam.

Beyond these impressive figures, the two countries have, step by step, overcome suspicion and disagreement to constantly deepen political ties and mutual understanding. Since 2000, Viet Nam and the US have exchanged six high-level visits, during which leaders from both sides adopted Joint Statements in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2013.

In particular, under the Joint Statement between President Truong Tan Sang and President Obama, the Viet Nam-US Comprehensive Partnership was defined to cover nine areas of co-operation, thus opening up a new chapter of relations with added substance.

The contacts and meetings between leaders of both countries on the sidelines of multilateral events have become more frequent. From only one dialogue on Prisoner of War and Missing In Action issues, the two countries have established more than 10 dialogue mechanisms, including Regular Ministerial Dialogue, the Political – Security – Defence Dialogue, Defence Policy Dialogue, Asia-Pacific Strategic Dialogue and Human Rights Dialogue.

It is not easy to shelf the past, especially one deeply engraved with scars of war. Yet, with a forward-looking mindset, Viet Nam and the US have been making great efforts to move beyond the past and together shape the future.

With the spirit of benevolence and humanity, Viet Nam has been working actively with the US in search for missing soldiers. To date, about 950 remains of fallen American soldiers have been recovered, among which 700 have been identified. The US has also provided more than 300 dossiers to help retrieve the remains of more than 1,000 Vietnamese soldiers. It also provided $100 million for dioxin clean-up in Da Nang and $80 million for removal of unexploded ordnance.

Although much remains to be done, the efforts made by both sides have significantly contributed to healing the wounds of war, promoting reconciliation and building trust between the two nations.

Obviously, disagreements and differences still exist between Viet Nam and the US, particularly on the issues of democracy and human rights. What is important is that both sides have clearly shown respect for differences and engaged in candid and open dialogues to narrow down disagreements and foster cooperation. To date, 19 human rights dialogues have been conducted, and both Viet Nam and the US are currently members of the UN Human Rights Council.

It is predicted that the 21st century will be the Asia century. If that is true, the trans-Pacific ties between the US and Asian countries, including its comprehensive partnership with Viet Nam, will be contributing factors to shape the region's future.

Beyond the bilateral sphere, Viet Nam-US relations have made increasingly important contributions to peace, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific and worldwide. From the arrangements with ASEAN centrality such as the EAS, ARF, ADMM+ to larger fora such as APEC and the United Nations, Viet Nam and the US are working closely together on various issues, ranging from non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate change response, water security to UN peace-keeping operations.

When the ASEAN Community comes into being later this year, both sides will move towards an ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership. Viet Nam will continue to play an important role in ASEAN-US ties, especially in boosting the implementation of the E3 Initiative (Expanded Economic Engagement Initiative) and TIFA (Trade and Investment Framework Agreement) between ASEAN and the US.

In a letter to President Harry Truman on February 16, 1946, President Ho Chi Minh articulated Viet Nam's goal for "full independence and full co-operation with the US." He said Viet Nam "will do our best to make this independence and co-operation profitable to the whole world." The world we live in today is moving so fast that Viet Nam and the US are not allowed to miss any opportunities as in the past.

The past 20 years of Viet Nam-US relations have shown that peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific would be better secured when Viet Nam-US relations progress, and the friendship and comprehensive co-operation between Viet Nam and the US are in line with shared interests of all countries in the region.

The history of relations between Viet Nam and the United States is full of vicissitudes. Nevertheless, the tremendous progress of the bilateral ties over the past 20 years has proven that Viet Nam and the US have no choice but to promote an equal and mutually beneficial co-operation on the basis of respect for each other's political regime, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, the UN Charter and international law.

Dialogue must prevail over confrontation. It is the only way for both countries to overcome the past and work together for a brighter future of each nation, for peace, cooperation and development in the region and the world. — VNS

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