by James A. Kelly
Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
Advanced International Studies
on the Future of U.S.-Vietnam Relations
I would like to congratulate
and the Vietnamese Ministry of
Foreign Affairs and its
for organizing this conference on
the future of relations between
I was sorry that travel to
kept me from joining Foreign
Minister Nien's meeting with Secretary Powell or in hearing his keynote address to
this meeting. This conference reflects
the importance of the relationship, an importance that is growing as ties become
closer and as
becomes a more influential country
in the region. With its young
population and entrepreneurial spirit,
is poised to become an even
stronger, more influential player in the years to come.
the midst of such a distinguished and well-informed group, I would particularly like
to acknowledge Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh, Vice Chair of the Committee on External
Relations in the Vietnam National Assembly, as well as Assistant Minister Hung and
Ambassador Thanh or IIR. Finally, I
would like to thank Karl Jackson and Fred Brown for their kind invitation to address
the conference today.
could not begin a discussion on the future of U.S.-Vietnam relations without
addressing the past. Both
are countries whose pasts, which
exert a strong influence on current policies, have the potential for obscuring a
shared vision of understanding and cooperation.
Although both sides are committed to focusing on issues of mutual benefit,
our war experiences have a lingering effect on the bilateral relationship.
said, we have made tremendous strides in the relationship in a relatively short
period of time. The relationship has
come a long way in the last three decades. In
the 60's and 70's, many of us, including me, were in
In the following decade, though, we were already on the way to normalization
as we began to address the question of high importance to all of us, the fullest
possible accounting for POW/MIA. Progress
on this issue enabled us to move forward in other areas as well.
Twenty years after the end of the war, we formalized ties, and in 1997 we
exchanged ambassadors. Since then we
have been moving forward across the spectrum from trade, to science and technology,
to mil-mil ties. Let me elaborate a bit
on these achievements.
was part of the legacy of the Vietnam War, namely achieving the fullest possible
accounting of our POW/MIAs, which served as the catalyst for the normalization of
U.S.-Vietnam relations in 1995. As a
result of the commitment on both sides, over 400 U.S. families now have answers
about the fate of their loved ones. We
appreciate the efforts by Vietnam's government to date to assist in accounting for
our missing. Our governments and all of
us share the grief caused by the tragic April 2001 helicopter crash that took the
lives of nine Vietnamese and seven Americans as the joint task force team surveyed
potential excavation sites. I note as
well the President's annual certification of Vietnamese cooperation on POW/MIA
accounting, in which he calls for greater unilateral efforts on Vietnam's part.
All Americans would appreciate further actions to provide access or
information from relevant archives, including those that might relate to Cambodia or
Laos, and efforts to return remains that are unlikely to be recovered jointly in the
our burgeoning economic relationship, the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) is a key
foundation and presents enormous opportunities for expanded cooperation.
The BTA binds Vietnam to an unprecedented array of reform commitments in its
legal and regulatory structure. USAID
is providing assistance to Vietnam through the Support for Trade Acceleration Reform
(or STAR) program. Although Vietnam is
lagging on some of its BTA implementation commitments and enforcement remains weak,
Vietnam has made real progress in revising legislation related to intellectual
property rights and opening its market to U.S. products.
We encourage Vietnam to continue its process of reform.
This will ease the way for Vietnam's stated goal of accession to the World
Trade Organization in 2005.
the BTA went into effect in December 2001, trade between the U.S. and Vietnam has
increased dramatically. The value of
Vietnamese exports to the U.S. grew to $2.4 billion in 2002, an increase of 129
percent over 2001 exports. U.S. exports
to Vietnam were also significantly higher over the same period - up 26 percent to
$580 million. On August 20 in Seattle,
Vietnam took delivery of the first of four Boeing 777 aircraft.
and the U.S. are also working closely on science and technology issues. The
U.S.-Vietnam Agreement for Science and Technology Cooperation entered into force in
March 2001. The agreement is an umbrella framework intended to support a cooperative
approach to environment, science and technology policy, and to advance research and
development objectives. Annual meetings
are organized to discuss the state of current research and cooperation.
We look forward to participating in the third Joint Committee Meeting on
Science and Technology that will convene next month in Hanoi.
We are also committed to expanding Vietnam's scientific capacity through a
fellowship program administered by the Vietnam Education Foundation.
and educational exchange is another very important part of our expanding
relationship. The Fulbright Program is
thriving and will celebrate the tenth year of its Vietnamese student scholarship
program this month. The new Vietnam
Educational Foundation is creating opportunities for Vietnamese and American
professors and graduate students to learn from one another in math and the sciences.
the cultural area, under the Ambassador's Fund for Cultural Preservation, the U.S.
is restoring pagodas in Bac Ninh and Hoi An. The
State Department has funded American singers and jazz groups who have held master
classes and given performances in Vietnam this past year.
The exhibition "Vietnam: Journeys
of Body, Mind, and Spirit," at the Museum of National History in New York,
cosponsored by Vietnam's Museum of Ethnology, is another example of successful
bilateral cultural collaboration. This
remarkable show was in sharp relief during the President's reception for national
leaders at the beginning of UNGA last week.
obvious historical reasons, contact between our armed forces has been one of the
slower areas to develop since we established diplomatic relations in 1995.
But the need to build confidence and to overcome decades of mistrust between
two former enemies eventually led to a wide range of humanitarian programs:
landmine clearance and unexploded ordnance removal; health assistance;
HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease prevention; and improved access to services
for persons with disabilities. Both
countries now recognize the benefit of expanding military ties, whether it be in
joint search and rescue activities, or a team of American military doctors traveling
to Vietnam to work with their Vietnamese counterparts on assisting burn victims.
look forward to Defense Minister Tra's November visit to the United States at the
invitation of Secretary Rumsfeld. Also
within the next year, we will likely see a U.S. Navy ship visit to Ho Chi Minh City.
These events all show that Vietnam and the United States are now
concentrating on the future, rather than looking to the past.
have also had good exchanges with Vietnam on counter-terrorism.
The Vietnamese have responded to our requests for extra security for our
Mission when necessary. They have also
taken measures to guard against terrorist money laundering and have signed on to 8
of the 12 UN counter-terrorism conventions.
I mentioned earlier, it is important that we also continue to work on areas where we
have differences. We need to make
demonstrable progress in these areas, as well.
In fact, I am concerned that differences on human rights and religious
freedom have the potential to impede the forward momentum in our ties more than any
other issue. We recognize Vietnam's
progress over the past decade in the areas of individual freedoms, people's control
over their lives, and expanded freedom of religion.
But, problems continue. In the
past year, many people have been detained and sentenced in Vietnam for nothing more
than the peaceful expression of their views or the peaceful practice of their faith.
Several peaceful democracy advocates have been arrested this year, including
Dr. Nguyen Dan Que. Others have
received unjust and harsh prison sentences for nothing more than the peaceful
expression of their views on the Internet. These
arrests and sentences are clear violations of international standards for human
the Central and Northwest Highlands, ethnic minority Protestants who are not
subversives, who are not trying to split the country, are persecuted by officials
who view all Protestant faith as subversive. Some
important leaders of other faiths, including Buddhists, Catholics, Cao Dai, and Hoa
Hao, suffer under unjust treatment. These
actions cause concern among Vietnam's friends here, in the Executive Branch, in
Congress, and among the public.
cooperative relationship between our law enforcement agencies is another area that
has been slow to develop. Given that it
is in both countries' interest to exchange information on narcotics, terrorism, and
trafficking in persons, we need to generate the mechanisms necessary to do so.
Do We Go From Here?
overall U.S.-Vietnam relationship - economic, political, and cultural - is
improving. U.S.-Vietnam ties represent
more than the BTA and the sum of our direct and indirect official development
assistance. We are well on the way
toward putting together a network of linkages - humanitarian programs, academic and
cultural exchanges, military and law enforcement cooperation, and dialogue on
strategic issues - that represent truly normalized relations.
Many government agencies on both sides, as well as NGOs, are involved.
I am confident that this process will continue, and could even accelerate in
the multilateral side, I often reflect about the opportunities and problems of
larger Southeast Asia and of ASEAN. As
many of our efforts including ASEAN integration and EAI indicate, there are problems
in ASEAN beyond the slow recovery from 1997. The
effect of China's attraction of investment - once less than ASEAN's and now far
greater - has left ASEAN's response and leadership challenged.
Free trade, including AFTA and progress toward the APEC goals, is central in
enabling the region's strengths to be brought to bear.
And the confidence of investors is key.
this Vietnam has a leadership role awaiting it.
Vietnam's population, geography, but most of all, the zeal for education and
the capacity for work that are characteristics of the Vietnamese people can be
critical, if Vietnam's leadership will look at the world beyond its borders.
on the bilateral side, we must continue to work hard to understand each other.
We must have the courage and tenacity to keep pressing to develop ties in
areas that historically have been taboo. We
must recognize that the more important the relationship becomes, the more focus
there will be in the United States on internal conditions in Vietnam.
Of particular importance will be how Vietnam lives up to its international
commitments on human rights and religious freedom, and the accounting for our
Basic investments in mutual understanding pay large dividends. They can help
minimize crises between our countries or eliminate the problems before they impede
progress. We must smooth out the ups
and downs of bilateral relations as we stride into the future in an atmosphere of
cooperation and mutual respect.
I am optimistic. I believe our common
interests already outweigh our differences, which, with careful management, can be
moved in the right direction. Thank