While visiting Vietnam Obama met with President Tran Dai Quang, touting a new friendship between the United States and its former enemy.
“Just a generation ago, we were adversaries and now we are friends,” said Obama during a news conference in Hanoi.
The President returned Obama’s sentiment by stating “the war is in the past now and everything is fresh between Vietnam and the U.S.” He went on to say that the visit had cemented a renewed allegiance and has shown “the bond between the two countries.”
Details of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed 12-nation trade deal currently being processed in the U.S Congress, were also discussed.
As part of the discussions, Obama agreed to end the decades-long American arms embargo on Vietnam.
Describing the embargo as a “lingering vestige of the Cold War”, Obama stated that the decision to remove the embargo was “based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalisation with Vietnam,” furthermore removing it from any relation to US policy on China.
The lifting of the embargo however comes with strict instructions.
“Sales will need to still meet strict requirements, including those related to human rights, but this change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment it needs to defend itself,” Mr Obama stated after talks with President Tran Dai Quang.
Amnesty International on Monday slated the Vietnamese government for carrying out underhand and repressive attacks against activists during Obama’s visit.
“Even as it faces the glare of global attention with the US President’s visit, the Vietnamese authorities, shamefully, are carrying out their repressive business as usual,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
According to Amnesty International, as well as arrests, dozens of activists are being prevented from leaving their homes, complaining that “uniformed and plain-clothed police” are “stationed outside”.
“Before leaving Vietnam, President Obama must insist on the release of all prisoners of conscience and a commitment that peaceful protests will be allowed,” said T. Kumar, International Advocacy Director for Amnesty International. “Human rights cannot be sacrificed for security and trade deals.”
The ‘crackdown’ on activists was also seen in the apparent banning of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head, after his crew’s accreditation was withdrawn midway through Obama’s visit.
“Vietnamese authorities must allow journalists to do their job and individuals to express themselves freely,” said Rafendi Djamin.
Dinner for two
Before setting off to Japan, where Obama became the first sitting President to visit Hiroshima, he sat down with renowned TV personality and chef, Anthony Bordain.
The meal offered Obama a brief interlude from the hectic and emotionally gruelling schedule that has consumed the end of his presidential term.