President Obama announces lifting of Vietnam arms embargo

Posted at 2:40 AM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-23 03:42:43-04

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The Latest on U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Vietnam (all times local):

1:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour should send a “clear signal” to extremists intent on harming U.S. personnel that “we’re going to protect our people.”

Obama says Mansour was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops who were sent to Afghanistan to assist and train the country’s military forces.

Obama says Mansour’s death doesn’t signal a shift in the U.S. approach to countering terrorism in Afghanistan. He says the U.S. will not engage in day-to-day combat operations, but will continue to help the Afghan people secure their country.

Mansour was killed when a U.S. drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistan province of Baluchistan. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last summer.


1:40 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the decision to lift an arm embargo on Vietnam is not based on relations with China, but on a desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam.

Obama says the U.S. will continue to analyze weapons sales case-by-case, but it won’t have a ban based on an ideological division between the two countries.

Obama says the U.S. expects greater cooperation between each nation’s militaries, often in response to humanitarian disasters. He also says there is a mutual concern with respect to maritime issues.

1:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of an arms embargo on Vietnam, removing a vestige of wartime animosity in an attempt to shore up the communist country in its territorial dispute with an increasingly aggressive China.

Obama made the announcement Monday during a news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (TrAAN Die Kwang).

U.S. lawmakers and activists had urged Obama to press for greater human rights freedoms before lifting the embargo.

Washington partially lifted the embargo on arms in 2014, but Vietnam wanted full access as it tries to deal with China’s land reclamation and military construction in the disputed South China Sea.

Lifting the restrictions will anger China, which is deeply suspicious of growing U.S. defense ties in areas it sees as its own.


12:10 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (TrAAN Die Kwang) opened their visit by touting the deepening economic relationship between the two countries.

The presidents attended a signing ceremony celebrating a series of new commercial deals between U.S. and Vietnamese companies. The White House said the value of the transactions was more than $16 billion.

The deals included U.S. engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney’s plans to sell 135 advanced engines to Vietnamese air carrier Vietjet and Boeing’s plans to sell 100 aircraft to airline. The White House says the Boeing deal is expected to support 60,000 American manufacturing and technology jobs.

The White House also announced an agreement between GE Wind and the Vietnamese government to develop 1,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity.


12:06 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama starts his visit to Vietnam looking to bolster trade ties with the government, and possibly lift an arms export embargo, even as he meets with dissidents and pushes for greater human rights freedoms from the one-party state.

Obama will try to strike this balance during his three-day visit to a country Washington sees as a crucial, though flawed partner as China seeks to boost its claim to disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Though Vietnam mostly has Russian equipment, lifting the embargo would be a boost for the country. It would show relations are fully normalized and open the way to deeper security cooperation.

U.S. lawmakers and activists have urged Obama to press for greater rights freedoms before granting it.

A decision could come Monday.