Home | Events | Community | Editorials | News | Friendship | Politics | Contact

 

News

January 3, 2003

McCain Reflects on U.S.-Vietnam Relations

(Associated Press) - U.S.-Vietnam relations can only strengthen in the future as Hanoi continues along its path of economic reform, Sen. John McCain said Thursday.

McCain, a former prisoner of war who is one of the most outspoken advocates of reconciliation between the former enemies, said Vietnamese leaders realize that the United States can be a major ally in the country's efforts to join the world economy.

"They recognize their future lies in a strong, vibrant free market economy. The United States can be extremely helpful in that," the Republican senator from Arizona said at the end of a weeklong trip _ his first visit to Vietnam in two years. "When you look at our relationship 15 years ago, it's like night and day."

A landmark bilateral trade pact enacted last year has made some noticeable changes, with "signs of modernization" already appearing in the country's major cities, McCain said.

The trade deal capped a lengthy, sometimes rocky, normalization process that formally began in 1994 with the lifting of the U.S. trade embargo.

Hanoi's strong desire to join the international community means its economic reforms will continue, said McCain, who was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam from 1967 to 1973. But he added that Vietnam needs to improve efforts in other areas, notably human rights, minority rights and corruption, as well as copyright and investment protections.

"They will never attract the kind of foreign investment they need to build infrastructure in a country that has a dynamic population growth unless they create a climate that is conducive to it. They know that," he said during an hour-long interview at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.

Political reform will come much more slowly, aided by young Vietnamese who are educated abroad and return home to work, McCain said.

"I think there will be a more free and open society, but by no means a free and democratic society. I think democratization of China and Vietnam is a process that will take a long time," he said.

McCain and his family arrived last Friday for a vacation with stops in Hanoi, Danang, the Central Highlands capital of Buon Ma Thuot, and Ho Chi Minh City. He was returning to the United States later Thursday.

During his first visit, which marked the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, McCain caused a minor flap when he declared the "wrong guys" had won the war. An irritated Hanoi bristled that Americans who committed "horrendous crimes" in Vietnam had no right to be critical.

But McCain said Vietnam also realizes that his Congressional record on reconciliation speaks for itself.

"There will be times when we have significant disagreements. But Vietnam also views me as one of their strongest advocates in the U.S. on normalization of relations between our countries," he said.

Comments by senior Vietnamese officials indicate that Hanoi views McCain as a major ally. State-run media quoted Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who praised McCain's "effective efforts" in promoting the implementation of last year's trade pact, which lowered tariffs and opened Vietnam's market wider to foreign investment.

McCain also redeemed himself in Vietnam's eyes by condemning a move by the American catfish industry to levy prohibitive tariffs on the import of Vietnamese catfish.
Back

Copyright 2000-2009 hungnguyen.com. All rights reserved.