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ICC NOTE: As President Obama attended the recent ASEAN summit in Sunnyland California, little was said regarding religious freedom according to the lack of news on the subject. What did come out of it was a sense of an increase cooperation between the United States and Vietnam. While the economic and strategic issues plays the greatest part in the growing relationship, it is unfortunate to realize religious freedom is not a consideration. Vietnam is consistently listed as a country of particular concern or at least a Tier 1 nation in the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) annual report. Vietnam currently holds countless church leaders and Christian lawyers/activists in prison with no hope of release. 

2/18/2016 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam  (AsiaNews) – US-Vietnamese relations are bound to grow in the coming years, as evinced by the summit between the United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that just ended in California.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung attended the two-day event (15-16 February) in Sunnylands, the first joint summit between the ten-nation group and the United States.

Chaired by Barak Obama, the meeting focused on political and economic strategies to develop the ASEAN region with Washington’s help, following the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which covers 40 per cent the world economy.

Vietnam has expressed a desire to play a leading role in the growing economy of Southeast Asia announcing that in the coming years it wants to develop closer cooperation with the United States on defence, science and technology, economic development and foreign investment.

Last year, the United States became Vietnam’s main foreign export market. Since 2005, trade between the two countries has grown by 23 per cent, reaching US$ 37 billion in October 2015 with Vietnam having the lion share, US$ 26 billion. US investment in the Asian country reached US$ 11 billion in February 2015.

Cultural and educational exchanges have also increased. According to Vietnamese government data, at least 17,000 Vietnamese students are presently studying in the United States. In the first eight months of 2015, 336,000 American tourists travelled to the Socialist republic (+ 6% compared to the same period of 2014).

The Vietnamese prime minister and the US president also discussed the respect for the territorial sovereignty of every country, maritime security and the tense South China Sea issue, which, according to the countries involved, should be settled under the auspices of the United Nations.

At the end of the summit, the ASEAN members and the United States issued a joint statement. In it, they called for upholding the basic principles of international law as set out by the United Nations Charter, solving disputes through peaceful means, and avoiding a dangerous militarisation of the area.

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