U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung during a meeting in Hanoi on Tuesday.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for closer ties between
Washington and its former wartime foe Vietnam, even as she said the
government in Hanoi isn't doing enough to respect human rights.
(Agence France-Presse/Getty Images)
in the Vietnamese capital on Tuesday in the midst of a cross-Asia tour,
Mrs. Clinton touted the widening commercial links between the two
nations, with trade reaching $22 billion in 2011, from $1 billion in
2001. The two countries have also moved closer in recent years as
Vietnam seeks more support in its long-running disputes with China.
Beijing's extensive territorial claims in the resource-rich South China
Sea overlap with those of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian nations,
leading to growing fears of a regional conflict.
said she hoped Asian leaders would work together to come up with a
solution to the territorial disputes. She encouraged the development of a
fresh code of conduct for activities in the sea at an Association of
Southeast Asian Nations summit this week in Cambodia, to ensure future
disagreements are resolved amicably.
"The U.S. greatly
appreciates Vietnam's contribution to a collaborative, diplomatic
resolution of disputes and the reduction of tensions in the South China
Sea," Mrs. Clinton said at a briefing after meetings with Vietnamese
Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
But Mrs. Clinton said she
remains concerned that Vietnam's government isn't doing enough to
protect the rights of its citizens, including protections for free
expression online. Vietnam has at times instructed Internet-service
providers to block access to sites such as Facebook FB -0.52% and
Twitter in recent years, while police have detained some well-known
bloggers. Human-rights groups say such actions are designed to limit
"I know there are some who argue that developing
economies need to put economic growth first and worry about political
reform and democracy later, but that is a short-sided bargain," Mrs.
Clinton said. "So I also raised concerns about human rights, including
the continued detentions of activists, lawyers, and bloggers, for the
peaceful expression of opinions and ideas."
Mr. Minh said at the
briefing he was hopeful that relations between the countries would
continue to warm, however, especially through economic links.
potential to boost economic cooperation between the two countries is
huge, and we hope the U.S. will become the top foreign investor in
Vietnam in the near future," he said.
U.S. officials are keen to
keep promoting commercial ties between the two countries, to create new
opportunities for American companies abroad and to help shore up
relations with Hanoi as Washington seeks to contain China's influence in
Although Vietnam has been a major destination for
U.S. investment in recent years, it has become somewhat less attractive
more recently because of macroeconomic instability, marked by high rates
of inflation and a series of currency devaluations. Analysts have
argued Vietnam needs to pursue more economic overhauls, including steps
to privatize state companies, to give its economy a new boost.
an American Chamber of Commerce event in Hanoi Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton
said she was encouraging Vietnamese officials to keep reforming the
economy, especially by opening markets further to private investment.
She said the U.S. was also doing its part by joining with local
companies and nongovernmental organizations to boost skills training and
build a better-educated workforceâ€”long a concern for major
multinational companies operating in Vietnam such as Intel INTC -2.56%