United States–Vietnam relations

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United States–Vietnam relations
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United States
Flag of Vietnam.svg
Diplomatic mission
United States Embassy, Hanoi Vietnamese Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink Ambassador Hà Kim Ngọc
Meeting of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh in 2019 Secretary Pompeo Meets With Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh (40253094493) (cropped).jpg
Meeting of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Phạm Bình Minh in 2019

After a 20-year hiatus of severed ties, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States of America and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on July 11, 1995. Subsequent to President Clinton's normalization announcement, in August 1995, both countries upgraded their Liaison Offices opened during January 1995 to Embassy status, with the United States later opening the Consulate General of the United States, Ho Chi Minh City, while Vietnam opened a consulate in San Francisco. [1] The U.S. also lifted its 30-year trade embargo on Vietnam in February 1994.


U.S. relations with Vietnam have become deeper and more diverse in the years since political normalization. The two countries have broadened their political exchanges through regular and regional security. The annual Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue resumed in 2006 after a two-year hiatus. They signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000, which went into force in December 2001. In 2003, the two countries signed a Counternarcotics Letter of Agreement (amended in 2006), a Civil Aviation Agreement, and a textile agreement. In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam. In July 2015, the United States hosted Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng in the first-ever visit of a Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary to the United States following a concerted effort by the Obama administration to pursue warmer relations with Vietnam. [2]

As such, despite their historical past, today Vietnam is considered to be a potential ally of the United States, especially in the geopolitical context of the territorial disputes in the South China Sea and in containment of Chinese expansionism. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Also, Vietnam is globally one of the countries with the most favorable public opinion regarding the US. [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Vietnamese Americans, making up more than 2.1 million people, are mostly immigrants who moved to the United States after the Vietnam War and comprise nearly half of all overseas Vietnamese. [13]


19th century

In 1829, US President Andrew Jackson sent a diplomatic delegation led by Edmund Roberts on the USS Peacock to the kingdom of Vietnam to establish bilateral relations and expand trade between the two countries. The ship arrived in Vũng Lấm, Phú Yên province on 2 January 1833. [14] The ruler of Vietnam at the time, emperor Minh Mạng was not eager to allow foreigners to freely enter Vietnam and engage in trade. The emperor required that Americans follow Vietnamese laws, and only them to do business in Da Nang, central Vietnam. After receiving this unwelcome message, Edmund Roberts's delegation left Vietnam. [15] :24 The American-Vietnamese relationship remained frozen after many disagreements and tensions from 1836 to 1859. This lasted until 1873, when Vietnam had trouble fighting against the invading French forces in northern Vietnam. Emperor Tự Đức appointed Foreign Minister Bùi Viện as "Grand Emissary" and sent him to the United States to seek support and aid against the French Empire. The diplomatic delegation passed through Yokohama, Japan, then arrived in San Francisco in mid-1873. [15] :274 Bùi Viện and the Vietnamese emissaries came to Washington D.C. and met with US President Ulysses Grant. The President promised aid and an alliance with Vietnam. However, the US Congress cancelled Grant's intervention in Vietnam. [15] :275 In 1884, Vietnam was completely conquered by France.

Before 1945

A 1946 telegram sent by Ho Chi Minh, the leader of the Viet Minh and head of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, addressed to President Harry S. Truman asking the United States to get involved in Vietnam in support of Vietnamese independence. Ho Chi Minh demande alors le soutien de l'imperialisme americain contre les Francais. Les USA l'avaient jusque la arme car il s'agissait de la guerre contre le Japon.png
A 1946 telegram sent by Hồ Chí Minh, the leader of the Việt Minh and head of the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, addressed to President Harry S. Truman asking the United States to get involved in Vietnam in support of Vietnamese independence.

The United States and Vietnam had relations during World War II, though this was with the Viet Minh rebels and not with France's colony of Vietnam, when a group of American agents of the OSS, the predecessor of the CIA, landed in Vietnam and met with the future leader of North Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, who was the leader of the Viet Minh and fiercely pro-American. [16] The agent group, led by Archimedes Patti, had co-operated together in French Indochina against Japan. The Viet Minh had given shelter to the American agents. The People's Army of Vietnam, founded at 1944 in mountainous Northwest Vietnam, had been backed and supported by the OSS and trained by American military personnel including Archimedes Patti, a pro-Vietnamese OSS officer. The first commander of the future PAVN was Võ Nguyên Giáp.

The surprise relations between the communist-backed Viet Minh and the OSS marked the beginning of US involvement in Vietnam. In those days, the United States, sympathizing with Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh, supported the group in order to overthrow Japanese rule in Indochina. Later, Ho Chi Minh asked to set up an alliance with the United States, which was approved by U. S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt with support from U. S. General Dwight Eisenhower. However, following a series of incidents in Vietnam including the killing of A. Peter Dewey, a pro-Vietnamese independence officer of the OSS by the Viet Minh, as well as the sudden death of Roosevelt, which brought Harry S. Truman to power, it was never established.[ citation needed ]

Vietnam War

The actions of North Vietnam in breaking the peace treaty with South Vietnam in 1955 abruptly concluded three decades of United States intervention in Vietnam and brought to a close a painful and bitter era for both countries. From 1954 to 1975 the United States Military was involved in the development of Vietnam. With fears that the United States would lose Vietnam to communism, the country was divided at the 17th parallel, creating temporarily separate states, the North being communist and the South as a non-communist state. While the southern province had the support of the United States, billions of American dollars were spent in efforts to modernize the country. This involvement increased tensions between the two provinces, resulting in the second Indochina War, otherwise known to the Western World as the "Vietnam War". In Tours of Vietnam: War, Travel Guides and Memory, by Scott Laderman, he argues that calling the second Indochina War the Vietnam War "is to thus reveal a certain bias. Should we therefore call it the "American War?" (ix) The war generated considerable social and political discord in the United States, massive disruption in Vietnam, and was enormously costly to both sides. Vietnam endured physical destruction—ravaged battle sites, leveled factories and cities, and untold numbers of military and civilian casualties. The United States escaped physical devastation, but it suffered the loss of 58,000 lives (2,400 unaccounted for) and spent roughly $140 billion ($950 billion in 2011) in direct expenses to build infrastructure, train an army and police force and modernize the young country. [17] The war polarized and disillusioned American society during and after the conflict. For instance, in 1964 the "Gulf of Tonkin incident" which many have attributed to overzealous radar officers aboard the USS Maddox, was used as extra justification for Congress' decision to allow the then president, Lyndon B. Johnson, to take any necessary retaliatory measures. A large scandal sprung up and documentaries were produced to argue one side or the other of this controversy.

United States-South Vietnam relations
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United States
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South Vietnam
Diplomatic mission
United States Embassy, Saigon South Vietnamese Embassy, Washington, D.C.
Ambassador Ambassador
U.S. forces drop Napalm on suspected Viet Cong positions in 1965 Napalm.jpg
U.S. forces drop Napalm on suspected Viet Cong positions in 1965

To the Vietnamese communists, the war against the United States simply extended the war for independence initiated against the French. In Hanoi's view, when the United States displaced the French in Indochina, it assumed the French role as a major-power obstacle to Vietnam's eventual reunification under the North's Communist rule.

For the United States, intervention was primarily derived from political ideology (i.e. the Cold War) considerations that largely transcended Vietnam.

United States involvement in Vietnam was driven by many factors, including: ideology, Cold War strategy as well inheriting a colonial legacy from the 4th Republic of France, one of its major allies. There were two major drivers: anticommunist considerations and anticolonialist considerations. Where there was little risk of Communist involvement, for example, in the Anglo-French Suez Canal adventure of 1956, against Egypt, the United States would often intervene forcefully—even against their strongest allies—on behalf of the principles of self-determination and sovereignty for all nations.

In the closing months of World War II, the United States had supported the idea of an international trusteeship for all of Indochina. Subsequently, in spite of misgivings in Washington about French intentions to reimpose colonial rule in Indochina, the United States was reluctantly forced to support French colonialism in order to assure it as an ally against a potential Soviet threat. Anticolonial sentiment in the United States after World War II thus failed to outweigh policy priorities in Europe, such as the evolving North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) [18] relationship. The formal creation of NATO and the communist victory in China, both of which occurred in 1949, led the United States to support materially the French war effort in Indochina. The perception that communism was global and monolithic led the administration of President Dwight D. Eisenhower to support the idea of a noncommunist state in southern Vietnam, after the French withdrawal under the Geneva Agreements of 1954.

Although this goal arguably ran counter to two key features of the Geneva Agreements (the stipulation that the line separating North and South Vietnam be neither a political nor territorial boundary and the call for reunification elections), it was based on the United States assessment that the Viet minh—which, contrary to the agreements, had left several thousand cadres south of the demarcation line—was already in violation. The first United States advisers arrived in the South within a year after Geneva to help President Ngo Dinh Diem establish a government that would be strong enough to stand up to the communist regime in the North.

Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visiting a textile mill in Saigon, 1961 LBJ touring a factory in Saigon ppmsca.03198.jpg
Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visiting a textile mill in Saigon, 1961
Staff Sergeant Ermalinda Salazar, a female U.S. Marine, helps the children of the St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage in Vietnam Saigon, South Vietnam....Staff Sergeant Ermalinda Salazar, a woman Marine, has been nominated for the 1970 Unsung... - NARA - 532499.tif
Staff Sergeant Ermalinda Salazar, a female U.S. Marine, helps the children of the St. Vincent de Paul Orphanage in Vietnam

Although Washington's advisory role was essentially political, United States policy makers determined that the effort to erect a non-communist state in Vietnam was vital to the security of the region and would be buttressed by military means, if necessary, to inhibit any would-be aggressor. Defending Vietnam's security against aggression from the North and from southern-based communist insurgency was a mission Washington initially perceived as requiring only combat support elements and advisers to South Vietnamese military units. The situation, however, rapidly deteriorated, and in 1965, at a time when increasing numbers of North Vietnamese-trained soldiers were moving in South Vietnam, the first increment of United States combat forces was introduced into the South and sustained bombing of military targets in North Vietnam was undertaken. Nearly eight more years of conflict occurred before the intense involvement of the United States ended in 1973.

An "Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" was signed in Paris on January 27, 1973, [19] by Washington, Hanoi, Saigon, and the Provisional Revolutionary Government, representing the Vietnamese communist organization in the South, the Viet Cong. The settlement called for a cease-fire, withdrawal of all United States troops, continuance in place of North Vietnamese troops in the South, and the eventual reunification of the country "through peaceful means." In reality, once United States Forces were disengaged in early 1973 and effectively barred from providing any military assistance whatsoever under the so-called "Case-Church Amendment", there was no effective way to prevent the North from overwhelming the South's defenses and the settlement proved unenforceable. The Case–Church Amendment was legislation approved by the U.S. Congress in June 1973 that prohibited further U.S. military activity in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia unless the president secured Congressional approval in advance. With both the Senate and House under Democratic control, approval of any renewed air support for the South was virtually impossible. Following the fragile cease-fire established by the agreement, PAVN units remained in the South Vietnamese countryside, while Army of the Republic of Vietnam units fought to dislodge them and expand the areas under Saigon's control. The last U.S. combat troops left in March 1973. [20] Despite the treaty, there was no let-up in fighting. South Vietnamese massive advances against the Viet Cong controlled territory inspired their opponents to change their strategy. In March, communist leaders met in Hanoi for a series of meetings to hammer out plans for a massive offensive against the South. In June 1973, the U.S. Congress passed the Case-Church Amendment to prohibit further U.S. military involvement, so the PAVN supply routes [21] were able to operate normally without fear of U.S. bombing. As a result, the two sides battled from 1973 to 1975, but the ARVN, having to fight without the close United States air, artillery, logistical, and medevac (medical evacuation) support to which it had become accustomed, and without the financial support to pay its troops or supply them properly, acquitted itself badly, losing more and more ground to the Nationalist pro-Soviet forces which were supported by the Soviet Union and Communist China. General Vo Nguyen Giap of North Vietnam has been reported to have stated that the North planned to test the United States' resolution and in the spring of 1975, Giáp sent four star General Văn Tiến Dũng to launch the deadly attack on Buôn Ma Thuột. Despite the frantic pleas by South Vietnam, the Democratic controlled U.S. Congress blocked any attempts at aid to the South. Upon receiving word of this, Giap launched the planned invasion of the South.

The surprisingly swift manner in which the South Vietnamese government finally collapsed in 1975 is argued by some to confirm that the Paris agreement had accomplished little more than to delay an inevitable defeat for the United States ally, South Vietnam, and that Washington had been impotent to avert this outcome. The situation in Vietnam was no different than that in the divided Korea, except that there was no bar to support from the U.S. in the event of an invasion by the communist North as there was in Vietnam. Further, there was no continuing United Nations support for South Vietnam as there was in South Korea, although South Korea sent troops in to aid in the Vietnam War effort.

Rapprochement between the United States and Vietnam

Following the war, Hanoi pursued the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States, initially in order to obtain US$3.3 billion in reconstruction aid, which President Richard M. Nixon had secretly promised after the Paris Agreement was signed in 1973.[ citation needed ] Nixon's promise was in the form of a letter offering a specific figure. In June 1975, barely two months after Hanoi's victory, Premier Phạm Văn Đồng[ citation needed ], speaking to the National Assembly, invited the United States to normalize relations with Vietnam and to honor its commitment to provide reconstruction funds. Representatives of two American banks—the Bank of America and First National City Bank—were invited to Hanoi to discuss trade possibilities, and American oil companies were informed that they were welcome to apply for concessions to search for oil in offshore Vietnamese waters.

Washington neglected Đồng's call for normal relations, however, because it was predicated on reparations, and the Washington political climate in the wake of the war precluded the pursuit of such an outcome. In response, the administration of President Gerald R. Ford imposed its own precondition for normal relations by announcing that a full accounting of Americans missing in action, including the return of any remains, would be required before normalization could be effected. No concessions were made on either side until President Jimmy Carter softened the United States demand from a full accounting of MIAs to the fullest possible accounting and dispatched a mission to Hanoi in 1977 to initiate normalization discussions.

Although the Vietnamese at first were adamant about United States economic assistance (their first postwar economic plan counted on the amount promised by President Nixon [22] ), the condition was dropped in mid-1978 when Hanoi made additional gestures toward normal relations. At that time, Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach and the United States government reached an agreement in principle on normalization, but the date was left vague. When Thach urged November 1978, a date that in retrospect is significant because he was due in Moscow to sign the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation with the Soviet Union, Washington was noncommittal. During this period, United States officials were preoccupied with the question of the Indochinese refugees, and they were in the process of normalizing relations with China. This was an action that could have been jeopardized had Washington concurrently sought a rapprochement with Vietnam, a nation whose relationship with Beijing was growing increasingly strained. Policy makers in Hanoi correctly reasoned that the United States had opted to strengthen its ties with China rather than with Vietnam, and they moved to formalize their ties with the Soviets in response. Their original hope, however, had been to gain both diplomatic recognition from the United States and a friendship treaty with Moscow, as a double guarantee against future Chinese interference.

Le Cong Phung, Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States of America. Le Cong Phung.jpg
Lê Công Phụng, Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States of America.

In the United States, the issue of normalizing relations with Vietnam was complicated by Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in December 1978, the continuing plight of Vietnamese refugees, and the unresolved MIA issue. In 1987, under President Ronald Reagan, the United States continued to enforce the trade embargo imposed on Hanoi in 1975 and barred normal ties as long as Vietnamese troops occupied Cambodia. Any efforts to improve relations remained closely tied to United States willingness to honor its 1973 aid commitment to Vietnam and to Hanoi's failure to account for the whereabouts of more than 2,400 MIAs in Indochina. From the signing of the Paris agreements in 1973 until mid-1978, the Vietnamese had routinely stressed the linkage between the aid and MIA issues. Beginning in mid-1978, however, Hanoi dropped its insistence that the MIA and aid questions be resolved as a precondition for normalization and stopped linking the MIA question to other unresolved matters between the two countries. Vietnamese leaders contrasted their restraint on the MIA issue with its alleged political exploitation by the United States as a condition for normal relations. As additional signs of goodwill, Hanoi permitted the joint United States-Vietnamese excavation of a B-52 crash site in 1985 and returned the remains of a number of United States servicemen between 1985 and 1987. Vietnamese spokesmen also claimed during this period to have a two-year plan to resolve the MIA question but failed to reveal details.

Although Vietnam's Sixth National Party Congress in December 1986 officially paid little attention to restoring diplomatic relations with the United States, the report of the congress noted that Vietnam was continuing to hold talks with Washington on humanitarian issues and expressed a readiness to improve relations. Although ambivalent in tone, the message was more positive than the 1982 Fifth National Party Congress report, which had attributed the stalemated relationship to Washington's "hostile policy." The improved wording was attributable to the influence of newly appointed Party General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh, who was expected to attach high priority to expanding Vietnam's links with the West.

Within a few months of the Sixth National Party Congress, however, Hanoi began to send conflicting signals to Washington. In mid-1987 the Vietnamese government, having determined that cooperation had gained few concessions from the United States, reverted to its pre-1978 position linking the aid and MIA issues. The resumption of its hardline stand, however, was brief. A meeting between Vietnamese leaders and President Reagan's special envoy on MIAs, General John W. Vessey, in August 1987 yielded significant gains for both sides. In exchange for greater Vietnamese cooperation on resolving the MIA issue, the United States agreed officially to encourage charitable assistance for Vietnam. Although the agreement fell short of Hanoi's requests for economic aid or war reparations, it marked the first time that the United States had offered anything in return for Vietnamese assistance in accounting for the MIAs and was an important step toward an eventual reconciliation between the two countries.

Lifting of U.S. trade embargo on Vietnam

John McCain and John Kerry

The influence of Vietnam War veterans John McCain and John Kerry on Bill Clinton was instrumental in the Clinton administration's decision to lift the trade embargo against Vietnam. [23] Both Kerry and McCain were decorated war veterans and congressmen who served on the Senate Select Committee on P.O.W./M.I.A. Affairs. [24] In this role, they became intimately familiar with the issue of missing American soldiers, frequently traveling to Vietnam and coordinating with Vietnamese government officials. [24] Following years of public anguish in the United States over the fate of missing servicemen as well as measurable progress by the Vietnamese government in meeting related American demands, Kerry and McCain began to advocate lifting the embargo. They believed the policy would foster bi-national reconciliation, public healing in the United States, and further American economic and security interests. According to then Senator Ted Kennedy, “John Kerry did it because the issue of the war burned in his soul, and he found a soulmate in John McCain.” [24] On many occasions, McCain and Kerry met personally with Clinton to promote lifting the embargo. In one conversation with the president, McCain stated, “It doesn’t matter to me anymore, Mr. President, who was for the war and who was against the war. I’m tired of looking back in anger. What’s important is that we move forward now.” [24] In arguing their case to Clinton, the Senators “offered geopolitical and economic reasons, but also emphasized the matter of national honor, since the Vietnamese had diligently done all that we had asked them to in the matter of M.I.A [soldiers].” [24]

The efforts of Kerry and McCain in Congress and in public created the political capital and consensus necessary for the Clinton administration to credibly lift the embargo. [25] Although officials in the Clinton administration were ultimately in consensus to lift the embargo, the administration perceived they did not possess sufficient political credibility. [24] Clinton had avoided military service in the Vietnam War as a young man, infamously describing the conflict in a letter in 1969 as “a war I opposed and despised with a depth of feeling I had reserved solely for racism in America before Vietnam.” [26] Consequently, Kerry and McCain sought to use their widespread credibility on the matter to create an environment in which Clinton could lift the embargo. In 1993, Kerry and McCain accompanied Clinton to the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, despite substantial opposition from veterans’ groups. [24] Moreover, the two men accompanied Clinton in 1993 “as his escorts” to “deliver the commencement address at Northeastern University.” [24] Later, in 1994, Kerry and McCain co-sponsored a bipartisan Senate resolution urging the Clinton administration to lift the embargo. Despite significant opposition from Republican leadership and veterans’ groups, “McCain’s sponsorship persuaded twenty Republicans to vote for the measure, which passed by a vote of sixty-two to thirty-eight.” [24] While developing the bill, Kerry was in frequent communication with officials within the Clinton administration. [24] Following the vote, Kerry emphasized the promotion of national healing, stating, “it was time to put the war behind us.” [24] Likewise, McCain described the resolution as “as a seminal event in U.S.Vietnamese relations,” adding that “the vote will give the President the… political cover he needs to lift the embargo.” [27]

The U.S. embargo on Vietnam was eventually lifted in February 1994. Formal normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations took place in 1995. In 1997, the Vietnamese government agreed to pay the debts of the South Vietnamese government, then amounting to $140 million in order to be allowed to trade with the US. [28] Following this, trade volumes boomed between the two countries. [29] Also in 1997, President Clinton appointed former-POW and U.S. Congressman Douglas "Pete" Peterson as the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam.

Agent Orange

Handicapped children, most of them victims of Agent Orange A vietnamese Professor is pictured with a group of handicapped children.jpg
Handicapped children, most of them victims of Agent Orange

During the Vietnam War, as part of Operation Ranch Hand the U.S. Armed Forces deployed a herbicide and defoliant chemical known as Agent Orange. The U.S. military first started experimenting with herbicides in Vietnam beginning in 1961 as part of a herbicidal warfare program which lasted until 1971. The Vietnamese government estimates that 400,000 people were killed or maimed and 500,000 children born with birth defects as a result of the deployment of Agent Orange. [30] The Red Cross of Vietnam estimates that up to 1 million people are disabled or have health problems due to the effects of Agent Orange. [31] The United States government has dismissed these figures as unreliable and unrealistically high. [32] [33]

A 50:50 mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D, it was manufactured for the U.S. Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation and Dow Chemical. The 2,4,5-T used to produce Agent Orange was later discovered to be contaminated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzodioxin (TCDD), an extremely toxic dioxin compound. It was given its name from the color of the orange-striped 55 U.S. gallon (208 L) barrels in which it was shipped, and was by far the most widely used of the so-called "Rainbow Herbicides". [34]

Human rights

Vietnam's suppression of political dissent has been an issue of contention in relations with the U.S. and drew criticism from the Administration and Congress. In spring 2007, Vietnam's government launched a crackdown on political dissidents, and in November the same year arrested a group of pro-democracy activists, including two Americans. Despite continued suppression of freedom of expression, Vietnam did make significant progress on expanding religious freedom. In 2005, Vietnam passed comprehensive religious freedom legislation, outlawing forced renunciations and permitting the official recognition of new denominations. As a result, in November 2006, the U.S. Department of State lifted the designation of Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern,” based on a determination that the country was no longer a serious violator of religious freedoms, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. This decision was reaffirmed by the Department of State in November 2007. However, serious concerns continue due to Vietnam's suppression of freedom of speech. [35] [36]

Donald Trump and Vietnamese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong in front of a statue of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, February 27, 2019 President Trump's Trip to Vietnam (33352865778).jpg
Donald Trump and Vietnamese President and General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyễn Phú Trọng in front of a statue of Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi, February 27, 2019

Donald Trump, President of the United States, was criticized for failure to bring the human rights issue of Vietnam to the table during his visit to Vietnam in 2017 and before was the visit of Vietnamese Premier Nguyễn Xuân Phúc to the United States. [37]

Missing Americans

As of December 14, 2007, the U.S. government listed 1,763 Americans unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, including 1,353 in Vietnam. Since 1973, as part of investigating the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, 883 Americans have been accounted for, including 627 in Vietnam. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Defense has confirmed that of the 196 individuals who were "last known alive" (LKA), the U.S. government has determined the fate of all but 31. The United States considers achieving the fullest possible accounting of Americans missing and unaccounted for in Indochina to be one of its highest priorities with Vietnam.


Another sign of the expanding bilateral relationship is the signing of a Bilateral Air Transport Agreement in December 2003. Several U.S. carriers already have third-party code sharing agreements with Vietnam Airlines. Direct flights between Ho Chi Minh City and San Francisco began in December 2004.[ citation needed ] Vietnam and the United States also signed a bilateral Maritime Agreement in March 2007 that opened the maritime transport and services industry of Vietnam to U.S. firms. In 2011 the U.S. banks agreed to invest $1.5 billion in Vietnamese infrastructure.


Vietnamese military officers watch as USS Curtis Wilbur prepares to dock at the port of Da Nang in July 2004. US Navy 040728-N-8796S-093 Vietnamese military officials watch as USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) prepares to moor in the Vietnamese port of Da Nang.jpg
Vietnamese military officers watch as USS Curtis Wilbur prepares to dock at the port of Da Nang in July 2004.

According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Vietnam's defense policy is based on the "three nos" principle: no military alliances, no foreign troops stationed on Vietnamese soil, and no partnering with a foreign power to combat another. [38] Cooperation in other areas, such as defense, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and law enforcement, is also expanding steadily. Vietnam hosted visits by five U.S. Navy vessels in 2007, including a port call to Da Nang by the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu carrying a multinational contingent of medical and engineering personnel. In June 2007, Vietnamese observers took part for the first time in the multinational naval exercise Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), organized by the U.S. Navy. The Vietnamese Prime Minister has stated that the country is in the final stages of preparation to take part in international peacekeeping, as part of its contribution as a new member of the U.N. Security Council.

In response to the death of Osama bin Laden in 2011, Nguyen Phuong Nga, a spokeswoman for the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam said, when asked about the death of bin Laden, "Terrorists must bear responsibility for their acts and should be severely punished. Vietnam will continue to join the international community in the fight against terrorism, based on the UN Charter and the basic principles of international law, to eliminate terrorism." [39]

The ongoing and increasingly tense South China Sea dispute with the People's Republic of China, which has of late become more assertive in its territorial claims, has also gradually strengthened relations between Vietnam and the U.S. and other Chinese rivals, including India and fellow ASEAN member and U.S. ally the Philippines. [40] [41] [42] [43] The United States favors an open South China Sea for its larger Indo-Pacific Strategy and because Chinese territorial claims in the region threaten the security and prosperity of its key regional allies. [44] With its historically complex relationship with China that included past territorial disputes, Vietnam feels that Chinese claims and actions in the South China Sea threatens its sovereignty and territorial integrity. [45] In this regard, American and Vietnamese security interests align as they oppose Chinese actions in the South China Sea. According to a top official, the U.S. Coast Guard has repeatedly helped protect Vietnamese fishing vessels from China. [46]

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vietnamese Defense Minister General Phung Quang Thanh, Hanoi, 1 June 2015 Defense Secretary Ash Carter, left, and Vietnamese Defense Minister General Phung Quang Thanh, hold a press conference in Hanoi, Vietnam, June 1, 2015 150601-D-NI589-381.jpg
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Vietnamese Defense Minister General Phùng Quang Thanh, Hanoi, 1 June 2015

In June 2013, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said in a speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore that he would welcome the U.S. playing a larger role in tempering regional tensions, as China and some of its Southeast Asian neighbors remain deadlocked over competing territorial claims in the South China Sea - "No regional country would oppose the strategic engagement of extra-regional powers if such engagement aims to enhance cooperation for peace, stability and development. We attach special importance to the roles played by a vigorously rising China and by the United States — a Pacific power." [47] [48]

In October 2013, the United States and Vietnam signed a pact allowing for the transfer of nuclear fuel and technology from the U.S. to Vietnam, which is already working with Russia to complete its first nuclear plant by 2014 to meet its rising energy demands, with an American official noting that, "Vietnam is actively taking steps now toward development of a robust domestic infrastructure to support a nuclear energy program." [49] [50] [51] In line with its more active engagement with Vietnam, the United States has provided funds and equipment for Vietnamese naval capabilities. In 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the US would provide Vietnam with $18 million to enhance the capacity of its coast guard. [52]

Additionally, the United States and Vietnam also cooperate in the Clean Energy Sector. In 2014, the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam announced technical assistance for developing Wind Power Systems. [53]

In early October 2014, the United States approved a relaxation of its longstanding arms embargo on Vietnam. [54] In May 2016, President Obama announced the full lifting of the embargo during his visit to Vietnam. [55]

On 2 October 2016, US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain and submarine tender USS Frank Cable made the first port visit to Cam Ranh Bay since 1975. [56] A US Navy aircraft carrier (USS Carl Vinson) visited Vietnam in March 2018. According to the Vietnam Foreign Ministry, the visit will "contribute to maintaining peace, stability, security, cooperation and development in the region". [57]

In May 2017, the US delivered six 45-foot Defiant-class patrol boats to the Vietnamese Coast Guard. The cooperation in matters of their naval capabilities suggests that the shared security concerns over the South China Sea has strengthened the US-Vietnam military relationship. [52]

Reflecting the heightened tension over the South China Sea, the Vietnamese government updated the “three nos” policy in their December 2019 “National Defense White Paper.” It included a “fourth No” that denounced the use of force or threatened use of force to settle disputes. The White Paper also stated that it is willing to allow ships from other countries to dock at its ports. This suggests Vietnam shows greater worry over developments in the South China Sea and is willing to reach out to other regional powers. [45]

This relationship, however, is limited by historical memory and Vietnam’s multivector foreign policy. While fears about regime change have lowered, the US’ frequent criticism of Vietnam’s human rights situation is understood in the context of the Vietnam War and creates worry in Hanoi about the US’ true intentions. This may serve to limit the scope and scale of military cooperation. [52] Similarly, with its multivector foreign policy, Vietnam avoids aligning too closely with any particular regional power, and in particular limits its engagement with the United States to avoid upsetting China. [52] To that end, Russia, not the US, is the largest arms exporter to Vietnam. [58]

Principal U.S. officials

Diplomatic missions

The U.S. Embassy in Vietnam is located in Hanoi. The U.S. Consulate General is located in Ho Chi Minh City. The Vietnamese Consulate General to the United States is located in San Francisco, California. In 2009, the United States received permission to open a consulate in Da Nang; in 2010, Vietnam officially inaugurated a consulate general in Houston.

See also

Related Research Articles

South Vietnam Former country in southeast Asia

South Vietnam, officially the Republic of Vietnam, was a country that existed from 1955 to 1975, the period when the southern portion of Vietnam was a member of the Western Bloc during part of the Cold War. It first received international recognition in 1949 as the State of Vietnam within the French Union, with its capital at Saigon, before becoming a republic in 1955. South Vietnam was bordered by North Vietnam to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and Thailand across the Gulf of Thailand to the southwest. Its sovereignty was recognized by the United States and 87 other nations, though it failed to gain admission into the United Nations as a result of a Soviet veto in 1957.

Ho Chi Minh 20th-century Vietnamese communist leader

Hồ Chí Minh, born Nguyễn Sinh Cung, also known as Nguyễn Tất Thành, Nguyễn Ái Quốc, Bác Hồ, or simply Bác, was a Vietnamese revolutionary and politician. He served as Prime Minister of North Vietnam from 1945 to 1955 and President from 1945 until his death in 1969. Ideologically a Marxist–Leninist, he served as Chairman and First Secretary of the Workers' Party of Vietnam.

Viet Minh Communist Vietnamese independence movement between 1941 and 1951

Việt Minh was a national independence coalition formed at Pác Bó by Hồ Chí Minh on May 19, 1941. The Việt Nam Độc Lập Đồng Minh Hội had previously formed in Nanjing, China, at some point between August 1935 and early 1936 when Vietnamese nationalist parties formed an anti-imperialist united front. This organization soon lapsed into inactivity, only to be revived by the Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) and Hồ Chí Minh in 1941. The Việt Minh established itself as the only organized anti-French and anti-Japanese resistance group. The Việt Minh initially formed to seek independence for Vietnam from the French Empire. The United States supported France. When the Japanese occupation began, the Việt Minh opposed Japan with support from the United States and the Republic of China. After World War II, the Việt Minh opposed the re-occupation of Vietnam by France, resulting in the Indochina War, and later opposed South Vietnam and the United States in the Vietnam War. The political leader and founder of Việt Minh was Hồ Chí Minh. The military leadership was under the command of Võ Nguyên Giáp. Other founders were Lê Duẩn and Phạm Văn Đồng.

Pathet Lao Left-wing national liberation movement of Laos

The Pathet Lao, officially the Lao People's Liberation Army, was a communist political movement and organization in Laos, formed in the mid-20th century. The group was ultimately successful in assuming political power in 1975, after the Laotian Civil War. The Pathet Lao were always closely associated with Vietnamese communists. During the civil war, it was effectively organized, equipped and even led by the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN). They fought against the anti-communist forces in the Vietnam War. Eventually, the term became the generic name for Laotian communists.

First Indochina War 1946–1954 war between French Union and Hồ Chí Minhs forces

The First Indochina War began in French Indochina on December 19, 1946, and lasted until July 20, 1954. Fighting between French forces and their Việt Minh opponents in the south dated from September 1945. The conflict pitted a range of forces, including the French Union's French Far East Expeditionary Corps, led by the government of France and supported by the former emperor Bảo Đại's Vietnamese National Army against the People's Army of Vietnam and Việt Minh, led by Võ Nguyên Giáp and Hồ Chí Minh. Most of the fighting took place in Tonkin in northern Vietnam, although the conflict engulfed the entire country and also extended into the neighboring French Indochina protectorates of Laos and Cambodia.

1954 Geneva Conference 1954 international conference on the dismantling of French Indochina

The Geneva Conference, intended to settle outstanding issues resulting from the Korean War and the First Indochina War, was a conference involving several nations that took place in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 26 to July 20, 1954. The part of the conference on the Korean question ended without adopting any declarations or proposals, so is generally considered less relevant. The Geneva Accords that dealt with the dismantling of French Indochina proved to have long-lasting repercussions, however. The crumbling of the French Empire in Southeast Asia led to the formation of the states of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the State of Vietnam, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Kingdom of Laos.

The Indochina Wars were a series of wars fought in Southeast Asia from 1946 to 1991, between communist Indochinese forces against mainly French, South Vietnamese, American, Cambodian, Laotian and Chinese forces. The term "Indochina" originally referred to French Indochina, which included the current states of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. In current usage, it applies largely to a geographic region, rather than to a political area. The wars included:

The Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs was a special committee convened by the United States Senate during the George H. W. Bush administration to investigate the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, that is, the fate of United States service personnel listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War. The committee was in existence from August 2, 1991 to January 2, 1993.

The Vietnam War POW/MIA issue concerns the fate of United States servicemen who were reported as missing in action (MIA) during the Vietnam War and associated theaters of operation in Southeast Asia. The term also refers to issues related to the treatment of affected family members by the governments involved in these conflicts. Following the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, 591 U.S. prisoners of war (POWs) were returned during Operation Homecoming. The United States listed about 2,500 Americans as prisoners of war or missing in action but only 1,200 Americans were reported to have been killed in action with no body recovered. Many of these were airmen who were shot down over North Vietnam or Laos. Investigations of these incidents have involved determining whether the men involved survived being shot down. If they did not survive, then the U.S. government considered efforts to recover their remains. POW/MIA activists played a role in pushing the U.S. government to improve its efforts in resolving the fates of these missing service members. Progress in doing so was slow until the mid-1980s when relations between the United States and Vietnam began to improve and more cooperative efforts were undertaken. Normalization of the U.S. relations with Vietnam in the mid-1990s was a culmination of this process.

North Vietnam 1945–1976 country in Southeast Asia

North Vietnam, officially the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, was a state in Southeast Asia from 1945 to 1954, and a country from 1954 to 1976.

War in Vietnam (1954–1959) Phase of the war between North and South Vietnam

The 1954 to 1959 phase of the Vietnam War was the era of the two nations. Coming after the First Indochina War, this period resulted in the military defeat of the French, a 1954 Geneva meeting that partitioned Vietnam into North and South, and the French withdrawal from Vietnam, leaving the Republic of Vietnam regime fighting a communist insurgency with USA aid. During this period, North Vietnam recovered from the wounds of war, rebuilt nationally, and accrued to prepare for the anticipated war. In South Vietnam, Ngô Đình Diệm consolidated power and encouraged anti-communism. This period was marked by U.S. support to South Vietnam before Gulf of Tonkin, as well as communist infrastructure-building.

U.S. - Vietnam Trade Relations refer to the bilateral trade relationship between the United States of America (U.S.) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (Vietnam) from 1990s to 2012. After more than two decades of no economic relationship since the end of the Vietnam War, the two governments reestablished economic relationship during the 1990s. The bilateral trade between the U.S. and Vietnam grew slowly afterwards, and it has developed rapidly after the signing of the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001. Total bilateral trade turnover has increased 1200% from $1.5 billion in 2001 to over $20 billion in 2011. The bilateral trade relations further developed after the U.S. granted Vietnam permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) status as part of Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007. The U.S. and Vietnam also came to a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2007. Vietnam was recently the United States' 26th largest goods imports partner with $17.5 billion in 2011, and was the 45th largest goods export market with $3.7 billion in 2010. Vietnam with six other partners are now in the ongoing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations with the U.S. The growth in bilateral trade has also been accompanied by issues and problems, e.g. anti-dumping cases, worker’s rights, non-market economy, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) protection and Vietnam’s exchange rate policy.

History of Vietnam since 1945

After World War II and the collapse of Vietnam's monarchy, France attempted to re-establish its colonial rule but was ultimately defeated in the First Indo-China War. The Geneva Accords in 1954 partitioned the country temporarily in two with a promise of democratic elections in 1956 to reunite the country. However, the United States and South Vietnam insisted on United Nations supervision of any election to prevent fraud, which the Soviet Union and North Vietnam refused. North and South Vietnam therefore remained divided until The Vietnam War ended with the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

French Indochina in World War II

In the northern-hemisphere summer of 1940 Germany rapidly defeated the French Third Republic, and colonial administration of French Indochina passed to the French State. In September 1940 Japanese troops first entered parts of Indochina; and in July 1941 Japan extended its control over the whole of French Indochina. The United States, concerned by Japanese expansion, started putting embargoes on exports of steel and oil to Japan from July 1940. The desire to escape these embargoes and to become self-sufficient in resources ultimately contributed to Japan's decision to attack on December 7, 1941 the British Empire and simultaneously the USA and at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii). This led to the USA declaring war against Japan on December 8, 1941. The US then joined the British Empire, already at war with Germany since 1939, and its existing allies in the fight against the Axis powers.

1954 in Vietnam

When 1954 began, the French had been fighting the insurgent communist-dominated Viet Minh for more than seven years attempting to retain control of their colony Vietnam. Domestic support for the war by the population of France had declined. The United States was concerned and worried that a French military defeat in Vietnam would result in the spread of communism to all the countries of Southeast Asia—the domino theory—and was looking for means of aiding the French without committing American troops to the war.

1940–1946 in French Indochina Historical period in southeast Asia

1940—1946 in French Indochina focuses on events that happened in French Indochina during and after World War II and which influenced the eventual decision for military intervention by the United States in the Vietnam War. French Indochina in the 1940s was divided into five protectorates: Cambodia, Laos, Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. The latter three made up Vietnam. In 1940, the French controlled 23 million Vietnamese with 12,000 French soldiers, about 40,000 Vietnamese soldiers, and the Sûreté, a powerful police force. At that time, the U.S. had little interest in Vietnam or French Indochina as a whole. Fewer than 100 Americans, mostly missionaries, lived in Vietnam and U.S. government representation consisted of one consul resident in Saigon.

1947–1950 in French Indochina Historical period in southeast Asia

1947–1950 in French Indochina focuses on events influencing the eventual decision for military intervention by the United States in the First Indochina War. In 1947, France still ruled Indochina as a colonial power, conceding little real political power to Vietnamese nationalists. French Indochina was divided into five protectorates: Cambodia, Laos, Tonkin, Annam, and Cochinchina. The latter three made up Vietnam.

The Vietnam War was a major event that shaped the course of the world in the second half of the 20th century. Although it was a regional conflict that occurred on the Indochinese Peninsula, it also affected the strategic interests of the People's Republic of China, the United States and the Soviet Union as well as the relations between these great powers. China, in particular, also played an important role in the Vietnam wars during 1950~1975. China helped Vietnam against French forces during the First Indochina War and later helped North Vietnam unite the nation by fighting South Vietnam and the United States in the Vietnam War. However, with the failure of the North Vietnamese and Chinese negotiations in 1968, the PRC began to withdraw support for the sake of preparing for a clash with the Soviets. Chinese influence over North Vietnam diminished from that point.


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