US lawmakers and analysts offer support, adding that transactions will be monitored to ensure they comply with US interests.
A number of US Congressmen and analysts have expressed their strong support for President Barack Obama’s decision to lift the arms embargo on Vietnam.
Transactions will be examined closely to ensure they comply with US interests, including human rights. “Congress will work with the administration to ensure today’s more expansive shift in policy aligns with US interests, including the desire for progress on human rights,” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Republican Bob Corker, said in a statement.
President Obama announced the lifting of the embargo after talks with President Tran Dai Quang on May 23.
The decision to lift the ban, he said, was not based on China or any other consideration. “It is based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam,” he said, adding later that his visit to a former foe showed that “hearts can change and peace is possible.”
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees the State Department budget, said that lifting the ban sends a message to China at a time when Beijing has claimed sovereignty over 80 per cent of the East Sea.
“But it should not open the floodgates for the sales of lethal equipment,” he said in a statement. “Decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.”
He added that any decision on approving arms sales should reflect an assessment of relevant factors, including progress by the Vietnamese Government in protecting freedom of expression and other human rights.
Emeritus Professor Carlyle A. Thayer from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy believes the lifting of the arms embargo will not result immediately or in the near term future in any large Vietnamese procurement of weapons platforms (ships and aircraft) or systems (missiles). “The lifting of the arms embargo gives Vietnam some leverage in dealing with China,” Professor Thayer said in a statement released after the removal of the embargo was announced.
The lifting of the embargo, he went on, removes the political restraints that US allies and strategic partners may have felt in their dealings with Vietnam. Vietnam is likely to give priority to procuring advanced communications systems and intelligence and surveillance and reconnaissance technology related to maritime security and maritime domain awareness. US systems would be compatible with regional states and feed into a US initiative to develop a real time common operational picture. “Vietnam will be drawn into a very special regional club that includes US allies and strategic partners,” Professor Thayer said.
The decision, he added, represents one of the capstones of President Obama’s rebalance to Asia in general and Vietnam in particular. “Vietnam is one of Obama’s success stories,” he said.
- Carl Thayer