Lifting the arms embargo imposed on Vietnam, the US President declared that Vietnam was its most important ally in South-East Asia. The move was meant to bolster co-operation on the defence front between the two countries. Considering that Vietnam positions itself right opposite China in the dispute centred around the South China Sea, the lifting of the arms embargo is indeed a jolt for China.
On Monday 23rd May Obama met with the Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang to discuss a number of issues. Following the half hour meeting, both Presidents addressed a press conference. Welcoming Obama’s declaration, President Quang said that lifting the arms ban was a significant decision and in itself, a testimony of improved relations between the countries.
President Obama too acknowledged that though Vietnam was its one time foe, lifting the embargo was truly essential and that the ties shared by the two nations were warming up. He added however, that though the arms embargo was a remnant of the cold war, the complete lifting of the ban had wiped out all its vestiges.
Vietnam can now buy arms from the US on a large scale. It was in 1985 that the US extended political co-operation to Vietnam and three decades later it lifted the military ban but only partially. Although this enabled Vietnam to procure military aid from the US, buying defence equipment still remained an impossibility.
Now that the US had completely withdrawn the arms ban on Vietnam, President Obama urged that Vietnam too opt for decisions that would enhance its prestige. The ‘One party’ government in power in Vietnam and the violation of human rights in this country have been frowned upon in the US and not just the Obama government but some senators too had, pointing to these, objected to the total lifting of the arms embargo. The US President therefore made his Vietnamese counterpart aware that he had gone ahead with the decision despite these voices of disapproval. He also expressed the expectation that the Quang government would bring about political progress in the country and check the violation of human rights.
Moreover, as regards the South China Sea dispute, the issue ought to be solved not by building military might but through peace processes, advised the US President. He further clarified that his Vietnam tour or even his decision to lift the embargo had nothing to do with the US considerations about China. This decision of lifting the ban only pointed to the fact that hearts change and peace is possible even with a former foe and that is what has been demonstrated to the world, he said.
Meanwhile, China makes territorial claims to the Paracel region of the South China Sea which is under Vietnam’s occupation. China and Vietnam have even had skirmishes over this issue. Vietnam has befriended the US to combat a country as powerful as China and with the US responding favourably, the move has only aggravated the anxiety of China who has been consistently challenging Vietnam. Besides the visit of the US President has gone a long way in boosting the confidence and the impact of Vietnam.