U.S. President Barack Obama is eagerly expecting the visit to Washington, D.C. by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, a U.S. diplomat said on Tuesday.
Deputy Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken made the statement at a press briefing in Ho Chi Minh, the last day of his four-day trip to Vietnam to prepare for visits by leaders of the two countries this year, including General Secretary Trong’s.
Blinken told VnExpress newspaper that the U.S. welcomes General Secretary Trong’s visit and President Obama is waiting to meet him in Washington, D.C.
General Secretary Trong’s visit is of historic significance as it will mark the first one by a general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam to the U.S.
The visit will send a strong message to the world that former war enemies, who once fought each other fiercely and suffered great loss, can still become friends and build partnership relations, Blinken said.
Cooperation between Hanoi and Washington is currently expanded and deepened in many areas, the diplomat added.
The general secretary’s visit will also create a common vision for the future of the Vietnam-U.S. relationship, he said.
Blinken also revealed that U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Vietnam soon.
A source told Tuoi Tre that Secretary Carter will arrive in Vietnam late this month or early June, after attending the 2015 Shangri-La Dialogue, to take place in Singapore from May 29 to 31.
Blinken’s visit took place in the context that China is stepping up illegal construction on submerged reefs belonging to Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago in the East Vietnam Sea.
Beijing is accelerating to turn the reefs into artificial islands and has absurdly banned all ships from entering a radius of 12 nautical miles around these artificial islands.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal cited the U.S. Department of Defense as saying that the Pentagon is mulling over a plan to dispatch warships and warplanes to this 12-nautical-mile area, as a response to China’s ban.
Asked by VnExpress about the plan, Blinken said China’s recent acts in the East Vietnam Sea and East China Sea have gone against what the U.S. wants to see in the region.
Such actions include territorial claims, threats, sometimes force to justify Beijing’s claims, and attempts to change the status quo in these water areas, he elaborated.
The U.S. has a basic principle, which is that Washington does not take sides but it has a clear viewpoint on territorial claims, Blinken underlined.
The deputy secretary said the U.S. is concerned about freedom of navigation, peace, and stability in these waters, and about maintaining international law and practices.
China’s land reclamation on reefs in the East Vietnam Sea, its scale, and the militarization of these locations are likely to cause unrest and tension, Blinken said.
It is Washington’s point of view to call on all parties to avoid provocative acts and pursue sovereignty claims peacefully through law mechanisms, the diplomat said.
Washington is worried that China’s acts are further complicating the situation and escalating tension in the region, he said, adding that its partners there, including Hanoi, have all expressed concerns about these.
The U.S. hopes that any territorial dispute can be settled through ASEAN and the completion of the negotiation on the Code of Conduct in the East Vietnam Sea, he added.