"The decision to lift the arms trade ban, which followed intense debate within the Obama administration, suggested such concerns outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and Washington would lose leverage for reforms.
Obama told a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang that disputes in the South China Sea should be resolved peacefully and not by whoever "throws their weight around". But he insisted the arms embargo move was not linked to China.
"The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam," he said. Obama later added his visit to a former foe showed "hearts can change and peace is possible".
The sale of arms, Obama said, would depend on Vietnam's human rights commitments, and would be made on a case-by-case basis." Reuters
I know the Vietnamese people quite well having lived among them at the village level without benefit of five-star hotels and fancy restaurants. I respect their cleverness, style, work ethic, etc. They will make a valuable ally in the growing contest with China that we and the Chinese seem embarked on. A dozen Vietnamese divisions armed with American made weapons and manned by the descendants of those whom I and many on SST once fought to the death would be a potent force and something the Chinese would have to reckon with as possible enemies. Is that a good thing? Maybe ... Maybe ... But, would China as a friendly country not be a more worthwhile friendly force in the world? China is hugely larger and stronger than Vietnam and always will be.
There is little reason to prefer one over the other as a "friend." Both are run by single party Communist autocracies. In neither is there an independent judiciary or press. The record of respect for anything that could be called human rights is abysmal in both countries. The Han Chinese long ago conquered Tibet and are there engaged in massive cultural imperialism. Their treatment of the Muslim Uighurs in west China is equally bad. In Vietnam the Communist government has persecuted every ethnic, non-Vietnamese minority that can be found in the country, and there are many of those. The Vietnamese language word used for describing all these minorities is "moi." This means "animal," roughly.
The Vietnamese Communists have long been a romantic attachment of the American and European Left. Obama must be pleased to have the opportunity to befriend the government in VN. He looks pleased in the photograph, the Vietnamese president, not so much. pl