After repeatedly linking the historic embargo on military equipment to Vietnam’s not-so-pleasant human rights records, the United States has finally lifted the ban on the southeast Asian country.
President Barack Obama, who is currently on a visit to the communist state, announced on Monday that Washington will drop the decades-long restrictions on the sales of lethal arms to Vietnam in an effort to remove the “lingering vestige of the Cold War.”
“The decision to lift the ban was not based on China or any other considerations, it's based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. He added, “hearts can change and peace is possible.”
Obama is the third president to visit the country, though his latest trip to Asia is more than about strengthening ties with allies and confronting the legacies of the wars. It is also about the increasingly muscular rise of China that has made several nations anxious.
The move to lift the ban on lethal arms, which apparently comes with conditions considering the country’s terrible human rights record, will allows Vietnam to hold its footing amid the simmering tension in the region over the South China Sea dispute.
This is not the first diplomatic shift between the former adversaries. 2001’s bilateral trade deal and the U.S.-led Trans Pacific Partnership have played an important part in improving the relations between the two.
Obama is set to visit Japan next.
Watch his announcement about the embargo in the video above.