The following are the full text of the remarks:
“SECRETARY KERRY: Please be seated, everybody. Thank you verymuch. Welcome to the Ben Franklin Room here at the State Department.Thank you all for coming. Good afternoon, everybody. (In Vietnamese.)We’re delighted to welcome everybody here, and I am particularly pleasedto welcome President Truong Tan Sang to the State Department.
It is very inspiring to see that what so many of us worked to help makehappen some 20 years ago is now evolving into a very productive andimportant partnership. When I first returned to Vietnam as a civilianback in 1991, I could sense the unbelievable untapped dynamism of theVietnamese people, a sense of readiness to reengage with the world, andthe world was very ready to reengage with Vietnam.
As we allremember, however, normalisation with Vietnam, really in many ways themaking of peace, did not come easily. And Mr. President, I’m pleased tosay as I stand here, there are many people in this room who had a greatdeal of involvement through the years in helping to build thisrelationship. I see Senator Bob Kerrey here and Chuck Robb, a senator –former senator; Tom Vallely, very involved with the Fulbright program;Senator Richard Lugar – former senator Lugar here; and many others.Senator Ben Cardin is here. Congressman Sandy Levin – people all of whomhave worked hard to build this relationship. And the truth is all ofthem will remember that it was a difficult, painstaking process thatrequired a lot of hard work, a certain amount of courage, and somecompromise.
We all knew back then that we were unable to makeprogress without addressing the great unanswered question of whether ornot American prisoners had been left behind in Southeast Asia. And wealso knew that those of us in both countries who set about to try toresolve that issue were tempting the emotional opposition of many peopleon both sides. And that is why I will always be grateful to theVietnamese leaders that I worked with over the ten-year period who builtan extraordinary partnership in order to bring us to this day where weare able to stand here.
They helped us to search for a fewthousand of our sons even as a larger number of theirs were missing.They voluntarily dug up their own rice paddies in order to help us tryto answer questions. They let us into their homes; they let us intotheir history houses. They let us into their prisons, unannounced onoccasion, to interview prisoners. And they actually toleratedhelicopters flying in the hamlets, as they once did in a differentfashion, in order to inquire of citizens, to answer the questions thathad not been answered for so many years. On more than one occasion theyguided us across what were quite literally mine fields.
Ultimately, the friendships that we forged and the work that we didtogether to resolve outstanding legacy issues led to the normalizationof relationship culminating on July 11 th , 1995. And just a few weekslater, then-Secretary of State Warren Christopher touched down at Hanoion a mission of peace.
He spoke to the youth of Vietnam about thefuture, citing an inscription on Hanoi’s Temple of Literature: “Heavenhas ushered in an era of renewal.” Those words spoke powerfully to him,just as they should to all of us even today. The theme of renewal liesat the heart of our friendship. The Vietnamese have learned from theirown history that we all have no permanent enemies, only friends yet tobe made.
Today, when Americans hear the word Vietnam, they areable to think of a country, not a war. And that is our sharedaccomplishment. In the past 18 years, the wisdom of normalization hasbeen amply proven.
Vietnam has emerged as one of Asia’s great successstories. Thanks to our landmark bilateral trade agreement in 2001,two-way trade from 1995 to today has increased more than 50-fold. Andper capita, incomes in Vietnam have increased almost 500 percent.Together with Vietnam and other countries from across the region, we arenow working to conclude an historic Trans-Pacific Partnership, ahigh-standard 21 st century trade agreement that will promote regionaleconomic integration, prosperity, and opportunity for the people of allof the member countries.
As Vietnam has transformed itself, thecountry is now placing an increasingly significant role on regional andon global issues. We welcome Vietnam’s announcement that it intends toparticipate in UN peacekeeping operations in 2014 and we are now joinedtogether helping them to prepare for their initial deployments. We arecooperating to promote maritime security and to improve our humanitarianassistance and disaster relief capabilities. We are focusing ourassistance programs on adaptation, clean energy, sustainable developmentin order to address Vietnam’s vulnerability to climate change, and justrecently I met in Brunei at the APEC conference where we talked aboutthe Lower Mekong Initiative and other great enterprises that we’reengaged in.
We are cooperating in education, and that isanother very important bridge in our two countries’ relationship.Vietnam is an extraordinarily young society, almost 21 million peopleunder the age of 15.
Ultimately, Vietnam’s next generation needs schoolsthat are close to home, that can better prepare Vietnamese students forcompetition in the era of globalization. I have long been a supporterof the program I mentioned earlier, the Fulbright Economics TeachingProgram in Ho Chi Minh City, and its success demonstrates thatindependent U.S.-run institutions of higher learning can flourish insideVietnam.
As we look ahead to the future of U.S.-Vietnamese –Vietnam relations, we should remember that normalization could not haveoccurred without honest conversation, without candor between Washingtonand Hanoi, even on sensitive issues such as human rights, and I amcommitted to building on this kind of frank and cooperative partnershipthat is essential to both of our countries.
Looking back onnormalization, I’m struck by how many times the people committed to thisprocess made very, very difficult, but right choices. It began withGeorge Herbert Walker Bush, who, together with Brent Scowcroft, madecourageous decisions to move the process forward and lift an embargo,and it wound up with President Clinton, who not only ultimately moved tonormalization, but took the first trip of an American president in theyear 2000, which I was privileged to accompany him on.
Forty-five years ago, hundreds of thousands of Americans were fightingin the fields and rivers of Vietnam. Today, hundreds of thousands of usare visiting its marketplaces and its historic sites. So we have come along way. Let me assure you, Mr. President, we will continue to grow ourrelationship in the years ahead.
I might add just off thecuff, I was reading the President’s resume before greeting him andwelcoming him to the United States and to the State Department, and Inoticed that in 1966, he joined the Communist Party of Vietnam; in 1966,I joined the United States Navy. In 1969, he became a guerrilla leaderin a district south of Saigon – and aside of Saigon; in 1969, I was inthe Mekong Delta at war. Subsequently in 1984, he took on majorresponsibilities in Vietnam, ultimately becoming the mayor of Ho ChiMinh City and so forth; 1984, I was elected to the United States Senateand took on not so major responsibilities, but – (laughter) – I tried toupgrade that at one point.
But there’s a parallel, aninteresting parallel, and now here the President is as the President ofhis country, and I’m privileged to serve President Obama in thiscapacity. So we have an opportunity to build on our past on thisjourney, and in that spirit, allow me to propose a toast to the healthof President Sang, to the binding ties between our peoples, to thepromise of renewal that is at the heart of our relationship, to Vietnamfrom conflict to friendship, (in Vietnamese). (Applause.)
PRESIDENT SANG: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Secretary John Kerry, on the very impressive remarks.
Secretary John Kerry, ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasureto join this warm and friendly reception together with the high-levelVietnamese delegation which is hosted by Secretary John Kerry. I want tothank the US Government for their warm welcome and hospitality accordedto our delegation.
On this occasion, I wish to express my most sinceregratitude for the enormous contributions and untiring efforts to thegrowth of Vietnam-US relations to Secretary John Kerry, Senator JohnMcCain, and so many other American friends, so many that it isimpossible for me to make a full count of their names, even if I spentthe whole day, and ask for your forgiveness for that, and I have nodoubt that you will continue to support the promotion of bilateralrelations in the interest of our people.
Ladies and gentlemen,friends, following 25 years of reforms, Vietnam has graduated fromunderdevelopment to become a middle-income country. We have sustained ahigh growth rate, and achieved ahead of schedule a number of MillenniumDevelopment Goals. Our policy is geared to maintain the growth momentum,continue improving people’s life, restructure the economy, and step upadministration reform and anticorruption. Externally, we’ll continuepursuing the foreign policy of positive, active internationalintegration following the nonpermanent membership of the UN SecurityCouncil in 2008, 2009, and ASEAN chair in 2010.
We are standingfor elections to a number of multilateral agencies and will participatein the UN peacekeeping forces in the foreseeable future. Vietnamearnestly wants to be a responsible, reliable member of theinternational community with positive contribution to addressinginternational issues for the maintenance of peace, stability, andcooperation in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific. Amidst a changingregional and world landscape, the major powers, including the UnitedStates, have an important role and responsibility in dealing withhotspots in the region such as the East Sea – East China Sea and suchglobal issues as energy security, food security, transnational crime,climate change, and so on. This has become ever more imperative. In thatspirit, Vietnam welcomes the United State’s enhanced cooperation withthe Asia Pacific for peace, stability, and development in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen, in its foreign policy, Vietnam alwaysattaches importance to the relations with the United States, which weview as a leading partner. Bilateral relations have made great stridesin the past years on the basis of positive, friendly, constructivepartnership, (inaudible) cooperation, mutual respect, and mutualbenefit. Our two countries’ far-reaching partnership is not just limitedto bilateral framework. We have been working together on regional andglobal issues including those of strategic issue such as antiterrorism,maritime security and safety response to climate change. In particular,we have the shared determination to soon conclude a balancedTrans-Pacific Partnership, meeting the interest of all parties.
I’m also happy to note that economic trade ties continue to stay at theheart of bilateral relations, serving both as the cornerstone of and anengine for the overall relationship. The United States is now a leadingeconomic trade partner and the largest export market of Vietnam. Thepotentials for cooperation in science, technology, education, andhealthcare have been better tapped into. Our two countries havecontinued to maintain dialogues on issues of mutual interest, includinghuman rights. Through dialogues, we have achieved better mutualunderstanding, particularly about each other’s approach and distinctcultural and historical circumstances. Vietnam has been making sustainedefforts to protect and promote human rights so that the people canbenefit from the finest results of the reform process which is going on.
Similar to the goal pursued by the American Administration, wehave been continually improving healthcare, social, and educationprograms for the people, especially the poor living in remote, isolatedareas and ethnic minorities. We have given priority to the developmentof communication and information technology which resulted in Vietnambeing among countries with fastest growth of internet users. We’ve alsomade every effort to ensure the right of freedom of religion and beliefas well as to maintain the diverse (inaudible) of cultural values of thepeople.
In this visit, I am accompanied by some religiousdignitaries, and they have just had straightforward, open discussionswith their American counterparts on religious-related issues, and Ibelieve that these contacts and exchanges will help American friendshave better understanding about the real situation in Vietnam.
Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that our two countries are presentedwith wonderful opportunities to take bilateral relations to a new phaseof development. The two sides need to continue deepening various areasof cooperation with a strong boost even to key areas of economic, trade,investment, science, technology, education, training, overcoming warconsequences, and together with other partners soon conclude the TPP.
It is also necessary to maintain straightforward and opendialogues on issues of differences. Our relations are rested onconstructive, mutually beneficial cooperation, mutual respect andunderstanding, and the solid foundation developed in the past 18 years.With that, and the continued effort of the two governments and people, Ibelieve that Vietnam-U.S. relations will thrive with fruitful outcomescontributing to the maintenance of peace, stability, and development inthe Asia Pacific.
On this occasion, I would like to invite youto join me in a toast to the far-reaching sustained and productiveVietnam-US friendship and multifaceted cooperation, to the good healthof Secretary John Kerry and our distinguished guests present here. Thankyou.”-VNA
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