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August 20, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Continue the push for human rights in Vietnam

Remarkable changes are afoot in Vietnam, a country that Americans left in humiliating fashion nearly 40 years ago when Saigon fell to communist forces.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, and Vietnamese Chief of General Staff of the Army, Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, review an honor guard before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. Dempsey will hold talks with Vietnamese defense officials Wednesday on a visit that aims to boost military ties between the two former foes. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, right, and Vietnamese Chief of General Staff of the Army, Lt. Gen. Do Ba Ty, left, review an honor guard before their talks in Hanoi, Vietnam on Thursday Aug. 14, 2014. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh)

Last week, the U.S. Army’s highest-ranking official visited Hanoi to mend old war wounds and to set the stage for a new, friendlier era that goes beyond diplomacy to possibly include arms sales to Vietnam. Here’s what U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told USA Today in a Aug. 18 news report:

“That’s not to say it won’t happen without some effort. But I think there’s a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That’s what I hope happens here in this relationship.”

For many in Seattle’s large Vietnamese-American community, including myself, it’s difficult to view any actions by Vietnam’s government without skepticism. Overseas Vietnamese — predominantly made up of refugees and citizens of the former South Vietnam forced to flee after the communist takeover — have long staged protests and movements for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in their homeland. The regime has largely ignored those pleas— until now.

Vietnam has few options. Its leadership needs allies to fend off China’s aggression in the South China Sea and to increase trade.

Among the reasons to believe the tide has turned and Vietnam is on the verge of a substantive political shift:

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Comments | Topics: trans pacific partnership, vietnam, vietnam war