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ICC NOTE: In a move that was seen by many media and foreign policy experts, the Obama administration has lifted the weapons embargo on the communist nation of Vietnam. The decisions comes during his latest Asian tour as he arrived in Vietnam over the weekend to discuss economic and security issues with the former adversary. The decision was made based on China’s extensive reach into one of the most heavily trafficked region of the ocean, the South China Sea, as dozens of man made islands have been erected by the Chinese. China has done so to lay claim on millions of square miles of ocean in which they consider to be historically Chinese despite many other Southeast Asian nations having claim as well. It is unfortunate that with the move, the US government has eliminated one of the few remaining bargaining chips they had toward directing Vietnam to fix their porous human rights record against religious minorities and other prisoners of conscience. 

5/23/2016 Vietnam (Fox News) – President Obama lifted the decades-long U.S. arms embargo against Vietnam on Monday in an apparent effort to shore up the communist country’s defenses against an increasingly aggressive China – though he faced criticism that the move takes away U.S. leverage to press for human rights freedoms.

Obama announced the full removal of the embargo at a news conference in Hanoi alongside Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang. The president said the move was intended as a step toward normalizing relations with the former enemy and to eliminate a “lingering vestige of the Cold War.”

The embargo was imposed in 1984. The United States partially lifted the ban in 2014, but Vietnam pushed for full access as it tries to deal with China’s land reclamation and military construction in nearby seas.

Obama, in announcing the agreement Monday, said every U.S. arms sale would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis going forward. Vietnam has not bought anything, but removing the remaining restrictions shows relations are fully normalized and opens the way to deeper security cooperation.

“At this stage both sides have developed a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect,” Obama said.

U.S. lawmakers and activists, though, had urged Obama to press for greater human rights freedoms in the one-party state before lifting the embargo. Vietnam holds about 100 political prisoners and there have been more detentions this year.

“In one fell swoop, President Obama has jettisoned what remained of U.S. leverage to improve human rights in Vietnam — and (has) basically gotten nothing for it,” Phil Robertson, with Human Rights Watch, said.

In Beijing, China’s Foreign Ministry outwardly praised the move, with a spokeswoman saying China hoped “normal and friendly” relations between the U.S. and Vietnam would be conducive to regional stability. China itself remains under a weapons embargo imposed by the U.S. and European Union following 1989’s bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

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