News Americas

Thursday 8 December 2016

Obama lifts US arms embargo on Vietnam

Philip Sherwell in Bangkok

Published 24/05/2016 | 02:30

Barack Obama waves as he leaves after having a dinner with Anthony Bourdain at a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama waves as he leaves after having a dinner with Anthony Bourdain at a restaurant in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama shakes hands with a local resident as he leaves after having a dinner with Anthony Bourdain at the restaurant in Hanoi. Photo: Reuters
Barack Obama, left, meets with Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong at the Central Office of the Communist Party of Vietnam in Hanoi. Photo: AP
Barack Obama, centre, walks with chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan on the Presidential Palace compound in Hanoi. Photo: AP

Barack Obama has announced the lifting of a 50-year-old arms embargo on Vietnam in a historic signal of warming relations between former enemies that waged a bloody Cold War conflict.

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The move was unveiled by Mr Obama on a visit to Hanoi as the two countries face the shared challenge of Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

The US leader was at pains to insist that the lifting of the embargo was not linked to Beijing's belligerence, although few security analysts shared that interpretation.

China's official reaction was subdued. "The arms embargo is a product of the Cold War and should never have existed," said a spokesman. "We welcome normal relations between Vietnam and the United States."

But Xu Bu, China's ambassador to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), struck a more confrontational tone. Writing in the 'Straits Times', he described the US as "dictatorial and overbearing" and dismissed tensions over the disputed seas as "intentionally churned and hyped".

And campaigners criticised Mr Obama for lifting the embargo without securing public concessions from Vietnam on its dismal human rights record.

"In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of US leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, the US-based pressure group.

Irish Independent

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