Obama Lifts Arms Ban of Military Equipment on Vietnam

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Source: CNN

Source: CNN

As relations between the United States and Vietnam continue to normalize following the end of the Cold War, President Barack Obama has ended a long-term arms ban on the nation.

On Monday – during a trip to Asia where Obama will become the first U.S. president to visit the Japanese city of Hiroshima devastated by a nuclear bomb in World War 2 – the president announced in a joint press conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang that the U.S. was lifting its ban on lethal weapons sold to the country, a ban “based on ideological division between our two countries,” Obama said.

“The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations,” Obama explained during the press conference of criticism the ban was lifted to bolster ties with Vietnam as tensions with China have increased in recent years. “It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving toward normalization with Vietnam.”

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According to CNN, China has “aggressively” claimed territory in the South China Sea that has worried Vietnam and others internationally, despite Vietnam and China’s shared Communist ideology.

Yet China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman, Hua Chunying, praised lifting the ban.

“(The) arms sales ban was a product of the Cold War and should no longer exist,” she told reporters, according to CNN. “We hope the lifting of all such bans will benefit regional peace and development. And we are happy to see the United States and Vietnam develop normal cooperative relations.”

Nguyaen Ngoc Truong, president of Vietnam’s Center for Strategic Studies and International Development said the move would not make Vietnam a big buyer of U.S. arms right away, but that it “is important in the future. The symbolism is more important.”

Some, however, criticized ending the ban as it removed a key negotiating tool the U.S. could have used to pressure Vietnam to better its human rights record.

“In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam — and basically gotten nothing for it,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, told CNN.

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