US Lifts Vietnam Arms Embargo In Move To Counter China

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President Obama lifted the decades-long U.S. arms embargo against Vietnam on Monday in an apparent effort to shore up the communist country’s defenses against an increasingly aggressive China – though he faced criticism that the move takes away U.S. leverage to press for human rights freedoms.

Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. The president said the move was intended as a step toward normalizing relations with the former enemy and to eliminate a “lingering vestige of the Cold War.”

The embargo was imposed in 1984. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China’s land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.

Obama, in announcing the agreement Monday, said every U.S. arms sale would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis going forward. Vietnam has not bought anything, but removing the remaining restrictions shows relations are fully normalized and opens the way to deeper security cooperation.

“At this stage both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect,” Obama said.

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