The United States and Vietnam have discussed
possible U.S. sales of weapons and spare parts to Vietnam, as well as American
military help with disaster relief and a range of other issues. The two nations'
first strategic dialogue on political, defense and security issues shows the
continuing improvement in U.S.-Vietnamese relations, as Matt Steinglass report
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Mark Kimmitt says
the talks in Hanoi touched on a wide range of security
"Primarily peacekeeping, military assistance, security
assistance, potential arms transactions, [that are] lethal, [and] non-lethal,
and a host of other issues of mutual concern," he said.
Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh calls the talks,
which ended Monday, productive.
Minh says the dialogue helped contribute
to the strengthening of ties between Vietnam and the U.S.
military has asked the U.S. to supply spare parts for its American-made
helicopters, leftovers from the Vietnam War. The two governments also discussed
integrating Vietnamese soldiers into United Nations peacekeeping operations, and
American military help with disaster relief in Vietnam.
Assistant Secretary of Defense James Clad, who was also at the talks, says
Washington simply wants to develop the same kind of military cooperation with
Vietnam that it already has with other countries in the region.
"It would be incorrect to cast it is as something very bilateral. We have,
for example, routine exchanges with the Malaysians, with the Indonesians, with
the Filipinos, with the Thais. And I think as a large ASEAN country, Vietnam is
more and more coming into that world," he said.
Experts generally see the
growing U.S.-Vietnamese security relationship as an effort by both to balance
rising Chinese power. China and Vietnam have a dispute over the ownership of two
island groups in the South China Sea which may hold rich undersea oil
But Clad says the U.S. wants Vietnam and China to have good
relations, to promote regional stability.
Martin Gainsborough, a Vietnam
expert at Bristol University in Britain, says the talks carry promise for
Vietnam, but also domestic political risks.
"Individual leaders that are,
in a sense, fronting this dialogue - they have to be careful personally that
they're not seen as leaning too heavily toward the U.S. Again, not least because
of the relationship with China," he said.
The two sides hope to make the
talks an annual event. The next meeting is scheduled for autumn 2009 in