On his way home from the G20 summit of world leaders in India, President Joe Biden will make a historic stop in Vietnam, 50 years after the last U.S. troops left the country. Fifty years after a war that took more than 58,000 American and perhaps more than one million Vietnamese lives, the relationship between the two countries looks very different.
Ted Osius, president and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council, served as Ambassador to Vietnam under President Obama.
"That is the story of the last 30 years of Vietnam and the United States," said Osius. "We built trust, and we created partnership between our two countries."
During President Biden's visit, the U.S. and Vietnam are expected to announce a "comprehensive strategic partnership" expanding trade on everything from semiconductors to airplanes, and opening the door for more military cooperation and U.S. weapon sales to Vietnam.
"I think for Vietnam, the engagement with Washington and to strengthen the relationship with Washington, both in terms of the security issues as well as economic cooperation, is a high priority for Hanoi," said Yun Sun, director of the China Program for the Stimson Center.
With the upgrade in their diplomatic relationship, the two former enemies are taking a stronger stance against China.
"There are a lot of grievances between, especially from Vietnam towards China," said Sun.
"The Chinese have the ability to inflict pain really on any of their neighbors. The Vietnamese do everything they can to make sure that the relationship with China is solid. They also want a strong relationship with us," said Osius.
Biden's visit comes as Vietnam is criticized for a deteriorating record on human rights, and just days after the U.S Commission on International Religious Freedom criticized the communist government for violating freedoms that it says "add up to a clear reversal in that once-positive trajectory."
"Vietnam isn't living up to its own aspirations when it comes to human rights. So I think it's certain that the President will emphasize the significance of religious freedom, freedom of expression and respect for human rights in every conversation he has with Vietnam leaders," said Osius.
Biden, who is making his first visit to Vietnam, will also visit a memorial to his late friend Senator John McCain who was shot down over Hanoi in 1967 and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war.
"A lot of people, both Vietnamese and American took risks, especially earlier in the relationship to move us — in a historically very short period of time — from being enemies to being friends," said Osius.
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