Mr. Hoang Binh Quan, Head of the Party Central Committee's Commission for External Affairs, shares his thoughts on the nature of relations between Vietnam and the US.
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In the 20 years since normalization the relationship between Vietnam and the US has experienced strong and positive growth that few other countries in the world in similar circumstances could have achieved. Relations have undergone major important milestones, such as the signing of a bilateral trade agreement in 2000 and the setting up of a comprehensive partnership in 2013, while high-level visits between the two countries have been strengthened.
Within overall bilateral relations, economic cooperation has grown. The US is the leading trade partner and is now the largest export market of Vietnam. Cooperation in the fields of science, technology, education and training is increasingly widespread and has made major strides forward. The two countries also signed the Civil Nuclear Agreement 123, opening up opportunities for bilateral cooperation in the civil nuclear energy sector.
Defense and security cooperation has made important progress on the basis of the memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation signed in 2011. The Vietnamese Minister of Defense and the US Secretary of Defense signed the declaration on the vision of Vietnam and US defense relations, which is oriented towards defense cooperation between the two countries in the future. Cooperation on regional and international issues is increasingly effective and practical, including on strategic issues.
The result of the relationship is due to the strategic vision, political will, and efforts of the leaders and peoples of the two countries in the spirit of “putting the past behind us, overcoming differences, and promoting similarities towards the future”. Full respect is given to the independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and political institutions of each other for the development of each and for peace, stability and development in the region and the world.
The present and potential allows us to be optimistic about future relations. However, we also need to acknowledge frankly that the development of relations between Vietnam and the US is not entirely “plain sailing”. There are still issues between the two countries.
One of the most important issues in the process of promoting the relationship is political trust and differences between the two countries regarding issues of democracy, human rights, and religious freedom. This is easily understood because Vietnam and the US have shared an uneasy past.
The two countries have many differences in economics, politics and culture. The two lack information to understand each other. Over recent times we have established a mechanism for open dialogue and do not let the issues of democracy, human rights, and religious freedom impede the development of bilateral relations. The two sides should continue their frank dialogue constructively and in good faith, with the overall goal of enhancing understanding and narrowing this gap.
The resolution of the consequences of war is also a problem. The consequences for Vietnam have been very harsh, including Agent Orange/dioxin, landmines and unexploded ordnance left over from the war, and Vietnamese soldiers Missing in Action. The US has cooperated more than can be discerned, but these efforts need to be strengthened further.
The establishment of a comprehensive partnership between the two countries has opened up new opportunities for cooperation between Vietnam and the US. The two countries have common interests in promoting massive bilateral cooperation in order to contribute to resolving common problems around the world as responsible members of the international community.
The potential for further cooperation between the two countries is large. In this context, the official visit to the US by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, as the head of the political system in Vietnam, will be a new milestone in bilateral relations. The visit has historic significance, proving that two countries with different political regimes can fully cooperate together towards shared interests. This is an opportunity to look back on the achievements of relations between the two countries over the last 20 years and to promote the comprehensive partnership positively and sustainably to open the way for opportunities and promote the relationship between Vietnam and the US towards new heights.
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