Archive for U.S.-Vietnam Relations

As Expected, Zero Progress Made From Nguyen Phu Trong’s “Historic” Visit to Washington

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2015 by Ian Pham

Washington MeetingImage via Yahoo News

I felt I should follow up from my last article about VCP General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s self-proclaimed “historic” visit to meet President Barack Obama in Washington. Like I forecasted just a day ago, the talks indeed yielded zero actual change from the status quo.

The talks were straightforward, relaxed, with little point whatsoever. Pleasantries were exchanged, Nguyen Phu Trong lauds the “progress” that has been made in U.S.-Vietnam relations, with President Obama courteously expressing optimism for the future. The usual topics were brought up, like Chinese aggression in the Pacific, the possibility of the formation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and of course, the issue of human rights.

According to the Washington Times, Trong invited President Obama to visit Vietnam, in which the President has replied that he will do so “… some time in the future.”

There were some notable happenings that revolved around the meeting, but were not part of the meeting itself. A group of bipartisan lawmakers in the White House advised the President prior to the meeting to press Nguyen Phu Trong more strongly on the human rights issue.

From the same Washington Times source:

“This authoritarian one-party system is the root cause of the deplorable human rights situation in Vietnam,” wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Christopher H. Smith, New Jersey Republican. “As the list of detained Vietnamese bloggers and prisoners of conscience gets longer and longer, it is even more important than ever that the United States sends a clear message to the Hanoi authorities that respect for human rights is essential for a closer economic and security relationship.”

The other notable happening in relation with Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit was the hundreds-strong protest taking place outside of the White House during the meeting.

According to Jerome Cartillier:

A few hundred protesters rallied outside the White House, calling for expanded human rights in Vietnam — an issue that has sparked concern among some American lawmakers about deepening ties.

Demonstrators carried signs with slogans like “Freedom of speech in Vietnam now” and called on Hanoi to release all political prisoners.

Washington ProtestProtesters outside of the White House during Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s meeting with President Obama. Photo via Yahoo News

Although the meeting between President Obama and the idiot General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong was exactly as unproductive and pointless as expected, I am still happy to hear that the issue of human rights is still on the minds of U.S. lawmakers. I am even more proud of the part played by the Vietnamese community.

Commendation to all who participated in the protests yesterday. You made a great impact, and your passion and dedication is undoubtedly being heard. As the actions of the U.S. lawmakers urging the President to be tougher on Trong has shown, your voice is making a difference.

We have to keep pushing, we have to keep making a difference. Persistence is everything.

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Predictions For Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s VCP General Secretary’s Visit to Washington Today

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2015 by Ian Pham

Nguyen Phu Trong(AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

Vietnam’s General Secretary, the leader of the VCP and the country’s man in charge, Nguyen Phu Trong arrives in Washington today to meet with President Barack Obama.

According to the White House:

On July 7, 2015, President Obama will welcome to the White House Nguyen Phu Trong, the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam.  The President looks forward to discussing with General Secretary Trong ways to strengthen further the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, reflecting on the accomplishments of the past twenty years since the normalization of bilateral diplomatic relations.  The President also welcomes the opportunity to discuss other issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, human rights, and bilateral defense cooperation.

I’m not exactly sure what will come out of this meeting. The Vietnamese government in Hanoi has demonstrated time and again that they are firmly under the thumb of Beijing. Moreover, members of the VCP, with party chief Trong being one of the biggest offenders, have all shown ineptitude in reaching any sort of solution to the woes of their country, economically, socially, and politically.

For these reasons, I believe that President Obama’s hopes of establishing closer ties with Vietnam will once again fall short of any substantial gains. Human rights remains an issue that has hindered the U.S. goal of establishing a meaningful partnership with Vietnam, and judging from the ongoing violations that the communist state continues to orchestrate, this issue shows little hope of being resolved anytime soon.

The U.S. has deep interests in strengthening relations with Vietnam, and is willing to offer the communist nation vast benefits to reach that end. However, judging from the VCP’s tendency to fashion their foreign policy in accordance with Beijing’s wishes, it is highly unlikely that Trong or the VCP will risk offending China by warming up to the United States, no matter how beneficial siding with America is to Vietnam’s growth.

In terms of strengthening relations with Vietnam, the U.S. is willing to offer Vietnam a seat in the new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), as well as the easing of restrictions on the sales of lethal weaponry, and the increasing of economic ties. The U.S. wants to provide Vietnam with these major benefits, and has been very patient with the communist state’s continued intransigence, most notably with Vietnam diplomatically siding with China and blatantly abusing human rights domestically.

Besides the complicated situation with China, human rights is the only major impediment to Vietnam gaining the extensive economic, military, and geopolitical benefits that comes from partnership with the United States. However, as a communist government who is struggling to maintain stranglehold on power, as a cowardly government in constant fear of offending China, and as dullards who can’t hit water if they fell out of a boat, the Vietnamese Communist Party and its leader Nguyen Phu Trong will not be smart enough to take the many benefits that the U.S. is wanting to give to them.

In my predictions, no substantial agreements will be met between Vietnam and the United States. Unless President Obama is willing to overlook the human rights issue completely, something I really hope he does not do, it is doubtful that the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will become a reality.

Nguyen Phu Trong, nicknamed “Trọng Lú,” or “Trọng the Stupid,” or “Trọng the Confused,” or “Trọng the Dazed,” or “Trọng the Dullard,” (depending on your choice of translation) by the international Vietnamese community, will not make the obvious choice of simply improving human rights to vastly benefit his country. It’s so simple, but he will not get it. He’s called Trọng Lú for a reason.

The only thing I hope to see today are the major democracy, human rights, and anti-communist protests upon Trong’s arrival. Any organization that is staging demonstrations, all the more power to you. Come out in droves, make him hear you.

“Trọng Lú.”

On U.S. Visit, Party Secretary of Hanoi City Makes Disrespectful Gesture to Senator John McCain

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , , on August 8, 2014 by Ian Pham

McCainLast week, Politburo member and Party Secretary of the City of Hanoi, Pham Quang Nghi visited Washington D.C., following up on an invitation by the U.S. State Department. While in Washington, the Communist Party member met with a number of U.S. officials including Undersecretary of State Wendy Sherman, Deputy National Security Adviser Tony Blinken, Counselor to the Secretary of State Thomas Shannon, and Senator John McCain. Topics covered during the meetings included encouragement of American investment in the Vietnamese economy, the importance of the development of the TPP (Transpacific Partnership), and postwar economic assistance for Vietnam. None of this is important. Nothing here was accomplished.

The first substantial thing to know about this particular trip is that Hanoi Secretary Pham Quang Nghi was not even supposed to be at the meetings in Washington in the first place. The invitation by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was initially extended to a different VCP member, Pham Binh Minh, a known pro-Western voice within the party in Vietnam. At the last minute, Minh was sidelined by the VCP leadership. In his place, a pro-China drone in the form of Nghi was sent to represent the Communist State instead.

With the understanding that Minh was more open to talks with the West, Secretary of State John Kerry invited him for a meeting in Washington. However, with an overwhelming presence of the pro-China faction in Vietnam’s Communist Party, Minh’s trip was stifled by the head members of the Vietnam government, including the party leader Trong. In response to news that Minh was no longer coming, John Kerry appointed other members of the U.S. government to attend the meetings with Vietnam’s new delegates. Among the U.S. representatives was Senator McCain.

Aside from the topics discussed with U.S. representatives, which were fruitless overall, delegate Nghi went out of his way to present Senator McCain with a pair of ‘gifts.’ The first is a painting of the site where McCain was captured during his service days, and the second is a painting of that memorial inscribed with a personal message directly mentioning the Senator. One need not look very closely to find out that these gifts presented to McCain carry some deeply disrespectful messages behind them, aimed directly at the Senator from Arizona.

McCain PhotoThe picture above shows Senator McCain taking a photo with Communist member Pham Quang Nghi with the first gift in hand. Besides the fact that the painting depicts the site of McCain’s capture in 1967, the memorial plaque painting will clarify the Vietnamese official’s intention to humiliate the U.S. Senator.

This second gift, the memorial plaque painting, displays the following message:

“NGÀY 26-10-1967 TẠI HỒ TRÚC BẠCH QUÂN VÀ DÂN THỦ ĐÔ HÀ NỘI BẮT SỐNG TÊN JOHN SNEY MA CAN THIẾU TÁ KHÔNG QUÂN MỸ LÁI CHIẾC MÁY BAY A4 BỊ BẮN RƠI TẠI NHÀ MÁY ĐIỆN YÊN PHỦ  ĐÂY LÀ MỘT TRONG 10 CHIẾC MÁY BAY BỊ BẮN RƠI CÙNG NGÀY.”

Which translates to:

“ON 26-10-1967, AT TRÚC BẠCH LAKE, OUR FORCES AND THE PEOPLE OF THE CAPITAL OF HANOI CAPTURED ALIVE ONE MAJOR JOHN SNEY MA CAN [John Sidney McCain]. AMERICAN PILOT, FLYING A4, WAS SHOT DOWN AT YÊN PHỦ POWER PLANT. THIS IS ONE OF 10 AIRCRAFTS SHOT DOWN THAT DAY.”

MemorialFor a gift that is allegedly meant to commemorate, the message here only outlines the capture of McCain, reminding him that he was their captive, and all the painful implications of that event. Moreover, the message boasts that McCain’s was only one of ten other American planes shot down that day, a further insult to what they claim to be a gift for the Senator. Lastly, the term “TÊN” as used in the original plaque before naming Senator McCain, carries a negative connotation in Vietnamese, comparable to “Guy,” or “That guy,” in English. The term is opposite to a formal address such as “Mister,” and is used deliberately to show how little the Reds in Hanoi are trying to regard Mr. McCain.

The interpretation here is that Hanoi wanted to send a message to John McCain and the United States, signalling that the pro-China faction was dominant within the Communist Party, and that the U.S. should not get involved in Vietnam’s relationship with China. It didn’t work out the way they thought it would, though (it never does). There is so much stupidity in what Pham Quang Nghi did during this trip that one must wonder if these guys know what they’re doing most of the time (they don’t). There is a certain way for a statesman to behave when engaging in diplomacy, and this rude and vulgar conduct is no way to carry oneself when representing an entire nation. It’s not surprising, though. Everything the VCP does at this point is so painfully stupid that it shouldn’t even come as a shock anymore.

In sending a premeditated insult to the U.S. through Pham Quang Nghi, the leaders in the VCP were intending to humilate John McCain and the United States. However, in committing such a crude diplomatic act, the Communists have publicly humiliated themselves instead. The internet is exploding with criticism and ridicule from this episode, wondering how the VCP was capable of such stupidity. Well, anyone following this blog and Vietnamese politics will know that idiocy such as this is nothing new to the VCP. They are wrong for the country, and, to put it simply, they need to go.

Vietnam’s Role, and Leverage in the Southeast Asia Sea

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2012 by Ian Pham

This past Sunday, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta paid a visit to Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay, a major U.S. base used during the Vietnam War.  The visit yielded agreements between the U.S. and Vietnam to open restricted military sites in Vietnam that would permit searches for MIA soldiers of the war.  Behind these agreements however, is the continuation of a deeper goal, the further normalization of relations between two former enemies.

As of today, Panetta is the most senior American official to visit Cam Ranh Bay.  Not only does this visit signify the developing ties between the two sides, it also signifies America’s national interests in Vietnam as a key player in the Southeast Asia Sea.  According to American analysts, Vietnam currently holds a decisive role in shaping the balance of power in the Southeast Asia Sea.  The Center for a New American Security professes that Vietnam is arguably the pivotal player, or “swing-state” for what happens in the sea.  If Vietnam fails to step up to an increasingly assertive China, smaller countries like the Philippines have little chance of resisting.

These insights paint a vivid picture of Vietnam’s potential in dealing with Chinese hegemony.  Of the many countries in Asia at this point in time, Vietnam remains the key obstacle against Chinese expansionism.  As a result, the U.S. continues to pursue better relations with the country.  Unfortunately, these warming relations comes at the cost of human rights in Vietnam.  To keep Vietnam from running into the arms of the Chinese, the United States must turn a blind eye to the atrocious human rights record of Vietnam.  This is the American dilemma.  In order to keep U.S.-Vietnam relations on the right track, the United States is forced to soften its stance on human rights.

Nonetheless, this reality outlines the importance of Vietnam’s role in dealing with Chinese hegemony in the South China Sea.  Vietnam can very well be the difference maker in China’s success or failure in this territorial dispute, and has the power to counter China’s influence in Southeast Asia.  America understands this, and Vietnam understands this.  This is one major reason why the two countries have become so close in recent years, with an increasingly nervous and aggressive China on the periphery.  Though the human rights abuses continue to cause friction between Vietnam and the U.S., the China issue continues to bring the two closer together.

The Communist Party, Looking Stupid Again

Posted in Politics with tags , , , , , on October 16, 2011 by Ian Pham

The Communist Party has made another “bold” move in a newest attempt to show off their pride, arrogance, and stupidity.  This latest episode involves the U.S., who wanted to provide funding for the repatriation of soldiers who have lost their lives in the Vietnam War.  The United States was counting on the Vietnamese government to cooperate with them on a nationwide search for M.I.A. soldiers during the civil war period.  The U.S. promised to pledge $1 million in financial aid to the Vietnamese government on this recovery project, Senator Jim Webb said.  Unfortunately, the Vietnamese government declined this offer, making public their refusal to search for any South Vietnamese soldiers.

After 36 years, the bitterness that the Communists have been holding towards South Vietnamese soldiers has still not dissipated.  For reasons unknown, the Vietnamese Communists remain spiteful towards the people of South Vietnam, even to this day.  Memories of the war is apparently still haunting the Communist Party, preventing them from letting go of the past.  This unnecessary hatred continues to thwart any real chances for the country to move forward.  It’s been 36 years since the end of the war, why are the Communists still so angry?

For years now, the Communist Party has been trying to move closer to the U.S., yet their ignorance continues to hurt their efforts.  Even the U.S. has made efforts to improve relations with Vietnam.  This recovery effort was supposed to be a forward step in U.S.-Vietnam.  Sadly, the Vietnamese Communists cannot let go of the past, still clinging on to the brief moment of glory when they defeated America in war.  It is a sad shame that the Communist Party can’t even commemorate the dead.  These South Vietnamese soldier have passed away for decades, yet the Communists are still afraid of their influence.

The Vietnamese Communists have been saying for years that they are trying to become more open, respectful, and dignified.  It’s all a load of bull, we know that already. However, this recent decision to disrespect a nameless soldier from decades past further reinforces the notion that the Communist Party are a bunch of arrogant and spiteful cowards.  They want to appear dignified in the eyes of the world, yet they can’t comprehend the consequences that would arise from insulting the memories of fallen soldiers.  Regardless what side these soldiers fought for, they are still Vietnamese.  They are only enemies through war, a war that ended three decades ago moreover.

It should not matter whether they were friend or foe, commemorating the life of a fallen soldier shows signs of respect and nobility.  The Communists wanted to look respectful and noble in the eyes of the world, but are too dumb to make it work.  What could they have lost from honoring these soldiers the same way they would honor their own?  If anything, they could have gained a whole immensely from their participation.  Not only will they gain a more positive image through the eyes of the U.S. and the world, but the U.S. even offered to fund this project for them.  With their refusal, the U.S. has halted funding for the project, and the Communists are stuck where they have always been.  Subservient to China, and on the verge of bankruptcy.

A Chance for Change: Vietnam and the U.S.

Posted in IV. Columns, Politics with tags , , , on September 8, 2011 by Ian Pham

During a conference in Hanoi on August 24, 2011, Senator Jim Webb talked about the possibility of lifting the weapons embargo against Vietnam, implemented by the U.S. since 1984.

Over the past year, the U.S. and Vietnam have held numerous political meetings and military exchanges, flourishing from skeptical optimism to an almost working partnership.  Vietnam’s affiliation with the U.S., a former enemy, has improved greatly since the countries normalized relations in 1995.  Truth be told, both countries are still very suspicious of each other due to their relationship in the past.  However, it is also true that both sides have a common interest in one another due to the current circumstances in world politics.  That is why it is time for the two sides to work out these differences and build on a relationship that has been cultivated for almost two decades.

It should be obvious by now that the U.S. has a national interest in Vietnam, mostly because of it potential as a counterbalance to the ever defiant and malicious People’s Republic of China.  The rise of China, who has become increasingly aggressive and belligerent in every realm of American politics, is now posing a problem for the United States.  China has directed its economic and military muscle at the United States on many occasions.  They will do anything in their power to keep the American economy in a state of recession and vulnerability.  Needless to say that China, regardless of what they say on the surface, is no friend to America.

As a country who has fought with China over and over for more than one thousand years, Vietnam has proven itself a formidable force against the northern giant.  The U.S. never understood this in the past, but after several painful lessons at the hands of both the Chinese and the Vietnamese through the decades, the lesson is finally clear.  Of all the countries in Southeast Asia, it has always been Vietnam who put China in their place.  Today, with an increasingly powerful military and ever growing economy, China is once again trying to bully, steal, and force its way to the centre of the political stage.  The U.S. is facing constant pressure from the Chinese as a result, exacerbating their need for someone capable of taking on this threat besides the U.S. themselves.

In Vietnam, the U.S. sees this potential, both in the country’s economy and its military.  The population in Vietnam has now surpassed 80 million people, well on its way to becoming a nation of over 100 million people in the coming decades.  This growing population is desperately searching for work, possessing the mental and physical capacity to fuel the Vietnamese economy.  Furthermore, the growing population is more than eager to defend the country against China, who has given Vietnam much more problems they have done to the U.S.  Vietnam has both the potential and the strength to make this happen.  What Vietnam lacks however, is the leadership, and the tools to realize their potential.

The U.S. understands Vietnam’s capability and would like to provide the means to reach that goal, the only thing that stands in the way is the country’s rampant corruption and totalitarian ways.  Several weeks ago, American Senator Jim Webb has expressed his interests on lifting the ban on selling weapons to Vietnam.  If the ban were lifted, the U.S. would be free to sell military technology to Vietnam, greatly improving the defensive capabilities of Vietnam.  However, there will be some guidelines that Vietnam would have to follow, which will undoubtably involve human rights. Even so, would that be such a bad thing?  It is such a no-brainer, win-win situation, yet the Vietnamese Communists still have to think about it.  Provide a better life for your people and receive stores of high-tech weaponry in return?  The benefits outweigh the gains so substantially, this shouldn’t even be a question.

Weekly Protests Shutdown By Communist Government; U.S. Calls For Release Of Detainees

Posted in Politics, Society with tags , , , , , , , on August 23, 2011 by Ian Pham

The Vietnamese government has decided to put the weekly protests in Hanoi to a stop.  After 10 weeks of Sunday protests, the Communist Party has finally lost its nerve.  As the people in Vietnam prepared for their anti-China demonstration at Hoan Kiem Lake, a large group of both uniformed and plain-clothed police officers were already there waiting for them.  The policemen rounded up the protestors just as they were about to begin their patriotic chants, shoving many of them into a large bus that had pulled up to the scene.  At least 47 demonstrators were detained as a result, thus signifying that the Communist Party will no longer tolerate peaceful protests in the name of the country.

Prior to the arrests on Sunday, the Communist government in Vietnam had made a public order warning all the participants to stop with the weekly demonstrations.  Despite the prohibition announcement, protestors continued to gather at the lake of Hoan Kiem to rally against China’s expansionism in the Southeast Asia Sea.  That was then that the Communist Party felt it necessary to stop the protests for good.  They have become uneasy and wary of the people’s ongoing activism, fearing that it may turn into a revolutionary force that put their power in jeopardy.  As a result, the protests have been stopped for the week, though it is still unclear what will happen next Sunday.

The United States has called for the release of the detainees who took part in the protests, citing basic human rights and freedoms should be respected.  Since the arrests on Sunday, 39 of those detained have been released, though several are still held for investigation.  The U.S. and Vietnam have strengthened their relations greatly in the last few years, organizing conferences, visits, and military exercises.  However, Vietnam’s flagrant violations of human rights and freedoms continue to put a strain on this relationship.  The U.S. sees much potential in Vietnam, the strengthening of U.S.-Vietnam relations can bring many benefits to Vietnam, but this can only take place when Vietnam finally respects the basic rights and freedoms that the people deserve.