Vietnam-US relations move from former foes to close partners

VOV.VN - With both sides putting aside their suspicions by officially normalising bilateral relations in 1995, Vietnam and the United States have started a new chapter in their ever-improving relationship by creating a comprehensive partnership for the purpose of long-term development.

This year marks 45 years since the conclusion of the war and the country’s reunification, in addition to being 25 years since the start of diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the US. The past two and a half decades has seen bilateral relations improve exponentially, with enhanced co-operation occurring in all areas. Both sides now tend to find common ground on the important issues of the day, even sensitive ones, for the sake of mutual development.

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July 11, 1995 went down in history when President Bill Clinton announced the normalisation of diplomatic relations with Vietnam

The start of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two sides came on July 11, 1995, when US President Bill Clinton and Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet announced they were putting aside the past and starting a new chapter in the history of the two countries. 25 years on, few people would have believed that the two former foes would become such close partners with their relationship essentially being upgraded to a comprehensive co-operation partnership.

During a message commemorating the 25th anniversary of US-Vietnam relations, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “In 2020, we mark a quarter century since the United States and Vietnam established diplomatic relations. It was a historic step - one that first required us to face the dark legacy of war between our two nations. Since then, we’ve built a friendship on common interests, mutual respect, and bold resolve to overcome the past and look toward the future.”

With both countries making efforts to develop the relationship, priority is given to boosting trust and enhancing understanding as the two partners look towards the future. This is evident with both sides conducting high-level visits and establishing a range of effective co-operation mechanisms.

Since former US President Clinton’s first special visit to Vietnam in November 2000, at least eight reciprocal visits at the highest level have followed. The historic visit to the US by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in 2015 marked a new milestone in respect to each side’s political institutions, increasing mutual trust and helping forge a better understanding. 

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Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (R) welcomes US President Donald Trump on an official visit to Vietnam following his participation in the APEC Summit in Vietnam in 2019

At present, both partners have successfully established co-operative relations spanning across a range of fields, from diplomacy to economics and trade, security, science and technology, education, the environment, health care. This includes working together on sensitive issues such as human rights, national defense, as well as solving post-war issues.

Economic and trade co-operation remains a bright spot in the overall picture of bilateral relations over the past 25 years. Both sides signed a bilateral trade agreement in 2000, creating favourable conditions for greater co-operation among each nation’s business community. As a result, two-way trade turnover has jumped from just US$450 million to over US$60 billion by 2018, with Vietnam becoming one of the US’s largest ASEAN trading partners.

In terms of investment, the US is the 11th largest investor among countries and territories that pour capital into Vietnam, with over 900 projects and registered capital totaling US$9 billion.

Ted Osious, a former US ambassador to Vietnam, outlined that the two countries have great potential for future development, noting that the US wants to become the country’s number one investor and number one trading partner. With a fierce political will, both nations will try to overcome hurdles with the aim of deepening bilateral relations for shared interests.

An important milestone in mutual relations occurred in 2016 when the US government moved to lift its embargo on arms sales to Vietnam for the first time in more than 40 years. It also pledged to support the country’s defence sector with investment worth tens of millions of US dollars, with the primary focus on improving the capability of the Vietnamese Navy. After enjoying more than two decades of formal relations, a comprehensive partnership has developed which seeks bilateral co-operation on a range of issues.

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Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh (R) receives US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Hanoi in July 2018

Commenting on this blossoming relationship, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh stated that both sides have made great strides in putting aside the past and looking ahead towards the future. With a huge potential existing for greater co-operation, relations have made an increasingly important contribution to peace, co-operation, and development in the Asia-Pacific region as well as worldwide.

Deputy PM Minh went on to say that effective co-operation between both countries indicates that peace and prosperity in Southeast Asia will continue to be maintained as US-Vietnam relations develop smoothly.

Elsewhere, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the results of mutual co-operation has provided a fresh impetus to further strengthening relations between the two former foes for the sake of peace and stability throughout the region.

“In the past we were opponents on the battlefield. But today, our security relationship is all about co-operation,” Pompeo said in his message on the 45th anniversary of the US-Vietnam diplomacy.

The US Secretary of State concluded by saying, “There are still challenges in our relationship, the fact that we can have honest discussions when we disagree is confirmation of our potential as partners. As we celebrate 25 years – a quarter century – of partnership in 2020, let us renew our commitment to a strong and independent Vietnam and a peaceful and prosperous Indo-Pacific region.”


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