(VNA) Since Vietnam and the US normalised their diplomatic ties on July 12, 1995, both countries, their leaders and their peoples have worked unceasingly to strengthen ties.
In reality, Vietnam and the US began to cooperate with each other even before they normalised relations, in conducting joint searches for US servicemen who went missing in action during the Vietnam War (POW/MIA). The positive attitude, commitment and goodwill Vietnam showed on the issue wiped out any doubts and strengthened the trust both countries had for each other, creating an impetus for bilateral relations to grow robustly thereafter. Prior to this, in July, 1993, the US lifted all of its bans on loans to Vietnam , which paved the way for the Southeast Asian country to access financial funding from overseas. Later, in February, 1994, President Bill Clinton announced the lifting of trade embargo that the US had imposed on Vietnam for many years after getting the US Senate’s approval. A year later, both countries opened liaison offices and then embassies. To strengthen ties even further, they also began to exchange visits of senior-level officials on a regular basis. In 1995, Warren Christopher became the first US Secretary of State to pay an official visit to Vietnam . In November 2000, President Bill Clinton paid an official trip to Vietnam . He was followed to Hanoi by his successor, President George W. Bush In 2006. In return, Vietnam ’s top leaders visited the US , including Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in December 2005, State President Nguyen Minh Triet in June 2007 and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in June 2008 and April 2010.
The leaders also held bilateral meetings at multilateral forums, the latest being between Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and President Barack Obama on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Canada . While political ties have been growing well, trade and investment between the two countries has also been growing. In 1995, Vietnam and US bilateral trade only reached 450 million USD but by 2000 this had risen to 1.2 billion USD. After both benefiting from their Bilateral Trade Agreement, which was signed in 2001, the two countries recorded a ten-fold rise in two-way trade in 2009, notching up over 15 billion USD.
With this impressive figure, the US rose to become Vietnam ’s largest importer and third biggest trading partner, plus it also emerged as the largest foreign investor in Vietnam in 2009. In addition to economic cooperation, cooperation in education has also been a great success, adding to their relationship as at the time both countries restarted diplomatic ties there were only 800 Vietnamese students studying in the US . At present, 13,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the US , putting Vietnam at the ninth position in the list of countries with the most students there and first in terms of the growth rate of student number. In health care, both countries linked up to respond to diseases and at present, Vietnam is one of 15 countries that benefits from the US ’s PEPFAR programme to combat HIV/AIDS. As ties are growing, cooperation has also increased to include security and defence and for the first time, they have established a strategic dialogue mechanism for these issues. With the mechanism, a wide range of issues have been discussed, including regional and global security, the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, anti-terrorism measures, the fight against drug and trans-national crimes, disaster relief, maritime security, search and rescue missions, visits of naval ships and peace-keeping missions. On human rights and religious issues, where both still hold different views, frank talks continue to be held and Vietnam ’s openness and willingness has been recognised by US officials and international organisations. The two countries’ people have played a key role in developing bilateral ties. Through visits and informal diplomatic activities, both countries have gained a better understanding of each others cultures, society and institutions. The people’s voice has made positive contributions to the policy making process in both countries. In 1995 no one, even the most optimistic person on the planet, could not think of what Vietnam and the US have achieved today. The 15-year relations have proved that dialogue and cooperation can narrow their differences, solve disputes in international relations and benefit all parties concerned. With what has been gained and the determination and goodwill of both countries, the Vietnam-US relationship will continue to grow and aim higher in the future in a spirit of equality, cooperation and mutual respect, not only in the interests of each country, but also for peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world./.