Weapons Sales Hinge on Vietnam Rights Record

By Joshua Lipes
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Joseph Yun (L) addresses a congressional hearing on US relations with Vietnam in Washington, June 5, 2013.
Joseph Yun (L) addresses a congressional hearing on US relations with Vietnam in Washington, June 5, 2013.

The U.S. said Wednesday that it would not lift remaining sanctions on weapons exports to Vietnam unless Hanoi improves its human rights record.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs Joseph Yun told a congressional hearing on U.S. relations with Vietnam that Washington would not support an upgrade in bilateral ties without “demonstrable, sustained improvement” on human rights.

“While we intend to pursue closer security ties with Vietnam, there remain limits on our military-to-military relationship related to human rights,” Yun told a panel on Asia and the Pacific of the U.S House of Representatives.

Yun said however that the U.S. would support Vietnam’s efforts to modernize its military “within the nonlethal realm” to maintain peace and security in Southeast Asia.

“[W]e have made clear to Vietnam’s defense and civilian leaders that for the United States to consider lifting the remaining restrictions on defense equipment exports, including on lethal weapons, there needs to be continued demonstrable, sustained improvement in the human rights situation in the country,” he said.

Vietnam has called for the removal of the remaining sanctions, saying it would serve both Washington and Hanoi’s mutual interests and allow Vietnam to “overhaul and upgrade our weaponry.”

Experts have suggested that the U.S. is unlikely to lift the ban any time soon, as the most recent annual human rights report released by the U.S. State Department does not support changing current policy.

Delegation blocked

Yun’s statement came as a delegation of British lawmakers was barred from visiting the leader of a banned Buddhist organization during a recent visit to Vietnam, proving that he endures harsh political restrictions despite Hanoi’s claims that he is free.

The delegation of Members of Parliament from the UK All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was blocked from meeting with the 85-year-old Thich Quang Do of the Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV) while visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the Paris-based UBCV-affiliated International Buddhist Information Bureau (IBIB) said in a statement.

The APPG was in Vietnam from May 25-31 to reinforce parliamentary links between the country and Britain, and the IBIB had set up a meeting between a group of nine people—including five members of parliament and staff, and three officers from the British Embassy in Hanoi—and Thich Quang Do at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery on the morning of May 30.

But the delegation was forced to cancel the meeting due to “last minute problems,” IBIB said, adding that the group received an anonymous call from an official with the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee who said Hanoi had specifically forbidden a meeting with Thich Quang Do.

“Vietnam continuously informs the international community that Thich Quang Do is under no form of house arrest, and is ‘completely free’ at the Thanh Minh Zen Monastery,” IBIB Director Vo Van Ai said.

“If this is the case, why is he unable to receive visitors without the authorization of the authorities in Hanoi?”

Religious restrictions

The IBIB said it was “deeply disturbed” that Vietnamese authorities would prevent a meeting between the Buddhist scholar and Nobel Peace Prize nominee and the delegation of British members of parliament, who were visiting Vietnam “in a spirit of dialogue and mutual exchange.”

“This is an outrageous way to treat international public figures. It is also a clear proof of the political restrictions imposed upon Thich Quang Do,” the group said.

“This incident also underscores the discrepancy between Vietnam’s declarations to the international community and the reality of harassments and repression suffered daily by peaceful religious and political dissidents in Vietnam.”

Unsanctioned religious groups face strict controls in Vietnam, religious activity is monitored, and groups must be supervised by government-controlled management boards.

The State Department included Vietnam on its list of Countries of Particular Concern in 2004 but removed it from the blacklist two years later and has since ignored repeated calls by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedoms (USCIRF) to reinstate the country’s designation.

Comments (5)

Anonymous Reader

Short memory or a dead brain ?

Are you suggesting the US government is crawling back to help strengthen the people that kicked them in their asses ?

Support people struggle to get their freedom or selling arms to the oppressor ?
After generations and years of sacrifices the Vietnamese people are searching for their freedom.
Arming the Vietnamese war machine is defeating the principle of what this country stand for. " Freedom ! "
Don't dream of a Vietnamese comrade on your side; they kicked the Chinese asses too after the Chinese armed them to fight against the French and the US.
Just a thought I want to share with you my friend !

Your Amigo !

Jun 27, 2013 12:00 PM


from Wisconsin

Vietnam is/will be the best ally the US has in the area if we let them. I would sell/give them a Ford Class carrier and a dozen squadrons of F35C's if they want them. Anything to keep China on their toes is good.

Jun 19, 2013 12:33 PM


from Salt Lake

This is a consistant stand of the US. To remain relavent if not influent in South East Asia, the US will show its commitment to its regional allies considering the bigger and immediate pictures. China is reaching out to sits allies arround the world including South American and Caribean countries. US has only a few allies and some casual friends in East Asia and it may be a bad idea not to strengthen these friendships.

Jun 12, 2013 05:31 PM

Dutch Master

from Pa(USA)

Part II.My question is why Vietnam want to buy heavy weapons,who they going shot China,USA,Cambodia?.
USA,France .EUROPA,RUSSIA should know century 's crisis exactly ,On behalf a Cambodian and including Tibet.Uyghur,Myanmar.Inner Mongolia are urging USA.FRANCE.RUSSIA.EUROPA .GREAT BRITIS,please set back history ,you are master races.

Jun 08, 2013 03:44 AM

Dutch Master

from Pa(USA)

From time to time USA and France alway played wrong games with VIETNAM & CHINA,but Cambodia ,Uyghur,Tibet,Myanmar,Inner Mongolia those country need support from the WEST,USA,FRANCE to be enclosed the history,may USA,RUSSIA,FRANCE,ISREAL be consider carefully selling Weapons to CHINA OR VIETNAM they both the men.

Jun 06, 2013 02:56 AM

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