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(© 2016 Journal GlobaLinks)


CHICAGO (JGL) – In most of his speeches in his state visit to Vietnam, President Obama keeps on reminding China although he does mention the country by name that it should not “bully smaller” nations and should instead resolve disputes “peacefully.”

In an address to the people of Vietnam at the National Convention Center in Hanoi on the second day of his three-day Tuesday (May 24), Mr. Obama said, “More broadly, the 20th century has taught all of us -- including the United States and Vietnam -- that the international order upon which our mutual security depends is rooted in certain rules and norms. 

“Nations are sovereign, and no matter how large or small a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected, and its territory should not be violated. 
“Big nations should not bully smaller ones.  Disputes should be resolved peacefully.  And regional institutions, like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, should continue to be strengthened. 

 Pres Obama


President Barack Obama ducks down under a low beam as he descends a staircase with Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Chairwoman of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, during a tour of Stilt House in Hanoi, Vietnam, May 23, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


“That’s what I believe.  That's what the United States believes.  That’s the kind of partnership America offers this region.  I look forward to advancing this spirit of respect and reconciliation later this year when I become the first U.S. President to visit Laos.”

Mr. Obama added,” In the South China Sea, the United States is not a claimant in current disputes.  But we will stand with partners in upholding core principles, like freedom of navigation and over flight and lawful commerce that is not impeded, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, through legal means, in accordance with international law.  As we go forward, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we will support the right of all countries to do the same.”

Vietnam, like the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei, is a claimant to portions of South China Sea. But China is claiming a huge balance of the area which consists of islands, rocks, atolls and shoals and the waters around them and is aggresively constructing buildings and airports even if the huge expanse is claimed by other Asian countries.

Mr. Obama’s visit to Vietnam comes a few weeks ahead of the upcoming decision by the international court (The Hague) on the sweeping maritime claims of China in Philippine Western Sea (South China Sea) that may rule by default against Beijing. China did not take part in the dispute before the United Nations on the Convention of the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS) although it is a signatory to, like the Philippines.

In a joint statement between the United States and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Monday, May 23, it said, “The United States and Vietnam reaffirmed their shared commitment to the peaceful resolution of territorial and maritime disputes, including full respect for diplomatic and legal processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with the UN Charter and international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). 


“Both countries underscored the commitments of parties to the disputes to refrain from actions that aggravate or broaden the disputes and recognize the importance of strictly implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties (DOC) and working to accelerate negotiation with substantive results toward the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct (COC). 

“In this regard, both countries expressed serious concerns over recent developments in the South China Sea that have caused tensions, eroded trust and threatened peace, security, and stability.  Both countries recognized the imperative of upholding the freedom of navigation and over flight and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea, called for non-militarization and self-restraint in addressing disputes, reaffirmed shared commitments under the Sunnylands Declaration, and committed to working closely with other ASEAN partners in implementing that Declaration.”

 However, during a joint press conference, when asked if the decision of the lifting of the arms embargo was Vietnam’s military deterrent against China’s behavior in the South China Sea, Mr. Obama said, “the decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations.  It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam -- a process that began with some very courageous and difficult conversations decades ago, including led by our current Secretary of State John Kerry, and Senators Tom Carper and John McCain, and a whole bunch of other Vietnam veterans, as well as their counterparts in the Vietnamese government. 

“And over time, what we've seen is a progressive deepening and broadening of the relationship.  And what became apparent to me and my administration at this point was, is that given all the work we do together across the spectrum of economic, trade, security and humanitarian efforts, that it was appropriate for us not to have a blanket across-the-board ban. 

“Now, every sale that we make to everybody is viewed as a particular transaction, and we examine what's appropriate and what's not, and there's some very close allies of ours where we may not make a particular sale until we have a better sense of how that piece of equipment may end up being used.  So we're going to continue to engage in the case-by-case evaluations of these sales.  But what we do not have is a ban that's based on an ideological division between our two countries, because we think, at this stage, both sides have established a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect.”

Obama becomes the third U.S. President to visit Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush visited the Southeast Asian nation in 2000 and 2006, respectively. Although Clinton normalized diplomatic relations with Vietnam, he kept in tact the ban on U.S. arms sales.


From Vietnam, Mr. Obama will visit Japan, an adversary of the U.S. during World War II, to attend a summit of G-7 industrial nations chaired by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

China has accused the U.S. of turning South China Sea into a “disturbing regional hot spot” according to an op-ed in Singapore’s Straits Times newspapers written by Xu Bu, China’s ambassador to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) in the run-up of Obama’s visit to Asia. (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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