Kerry links better US-Vietnam ties to human rights
HANOI: US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday celebrated the 20th anniversary of normalised relations between the United States and Vietnam but said ties would not reach their full potential without improvements in the communist nation`s human rights record.

Speaking in Hanoi, Kerry extolled the virtues of reconciling with former enemies and lauded the explosive growth in US-Vietnamese trade, educational exchanges and security cooperation over the past two decades.

Yet, he said concerns remained, notably over freedoms of press, speech and assembly, labour rights and political prisoners. While some progress has been made, more is needed, he said. He added that the US is willing to help in those areas but that without significant positive steps, a US ban on supplying lethal weaponry to Vietnam will remain in place.

`Progress on human rights and the rule of law will provide the foundation for a deeper and more sustainable strategy and strategic partnership between the United States and Vietnam,` Kerry said in a speech to civic and business leaders at a Hanoi hotel.

`Only you can decide the pace and the direction of the process of building this partnership. But I am sure you have noticed that America`s closest partnerships in the world are with countries that share a commitment to certain values.

`The more we have in common, the easier it will be to convince our people to deepen the bonds and make the sacrifices on each other`s behalf,` Kerry said.

He later made similar comments at a news conference with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh who said his country was willing to have a dialogue about human rights and was trying to improve. Minh noted that judicial reforms are underway as is the repeal or amendment of controversial laws that many saw as violations of the provisions of the country`s new constitution.

`Vietnam is more than willing to discuss differences on human rights so we can improve our policies and do a better job,` Minh said. Vietnam wants the United States to become its No. 1 trading partner and No. 1 foreign investor, he added.-AP

Published in Dawn