Obama hosts the leader of the Communist Party in Vietnam at the White House
The US President, Barack Obama held what was called a historic meeting with the leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nguyen Phu Trong on Tuesday. This was the first meeting of that kind since the normalization of the relations between these countries 20 years back. President Obama said that although the two countries had different political philosophies, their co-operation was deepening.
During the meeting, the pair talked about climate change, trade and plans on how to co-operate on issues of defense. Mr. Trong invited President Obama to Vietnam and Obama accepted the invitation saying that he would make a trip to Vietnam sometime in the future. Mr. Obama hailed the “remarkable progress” made between both countries over the last two decades. He also acknowledged the fact that these countries have a “difficult history.”
President Obama said that there are significant political systems and political philosophy differences between these countries. However, he noted that the leadership of the United States and Vietnam has made successful efforts over the years leading to the establishment of constructive relations whose basis is mutual respect. He said that the citizens of the two countries have benefited from this relationship.
Trong said that meetings of such kind could not have been imagined 20 years back. He however said that what is vital is the fact that former rivals have now transformed to become partners. He added that the current relationship between these countries will keep growing. Mr. Trong was speaking via a translator.
According to President Obama, the US and Vietnam have worked together on issues that range from public health and education to Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP trade agreement and security issues. Vietnam is among the countries within the TPP. TPP is a trade agreement that is seen as a major legacy issue by the White House because it has the potential of opening more markets for the products of the US. It will also help in increasing the influence that the U.S administration has in this region to counterweight the influence of the rising China. Vietnam and China have been at loggerheads over the maritime claims of the South China Sea. China is establishing islands in the waters that Vietnam claims.
Human rights criticism
This meeting was held at the time when Vietnam is being criticized for not making adequate progress in terms of enhancing labor rights and setting political prisoners free. During the meeting, there was a gathering of protestors outside White House with signs and T-shirts that were written, “Human Rights for Vietnam.” However, this issue was also discussed by the two leaders during the meeting. Mr. Trong and President Obama said that they discussed some of their differences around the human right issues candidly. Obama expressed his confidence in Vietnam leadership saying that the current tension would be resolved in a diplomatic way.
Meanwhile, a ceremony for commemorating the 50th Vietnam War’s anniversary is scheduled for Wednesday. The war left almost 60,000 Americans dead. The ceremony is being organized by congressional leaders and it will be attended by Harry Reid, the Senate Minority leader, Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, John Boehner, the House Speaker and Nancy Pelosi, the House Minority Leader.