Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: Vinh University

Thursday, March 14, 2019
Vinh University, Vinh City

Good afternoon! Thank you Professor Khoa for inviting me to Vinh University. Thank you also to all the faculty and students who came here today. I am especially pleased to know that alumni of English Access programs, E-Teacher, and the Fulbright program are here today too.

What a pleasure it is to visit Vinh University. The people of Nghe An are known for their strong dedication to education and this splendid university is a testament to that.

Today, I want to talk with you about where the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is today, and where it is going. Let me give a brief overview, and then we’ll move on to a discussion.

Next year, in 2020, we will celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations between our two nations. It will be a time for us to pause and reflect on the progress our countries have made toward a true comprehensive partnership.

The first time Secretary of State Pompeo traveled to Vietnam, he said our success was a “true testament to our nations’ common interests, our mutual respect, and bold resolve, despite great difficulties, to overcome the past and look forward to the future.”

Most of you have grown up in this world, and may not fully grasp the progress we made over the last 25 years. That’s OK — because today I am here to not to talk about our past, but about our shared future.

Today, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is stronger than it has ever been. Just a couple of weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump visited Vietnam for the second time in his two years as U.S. president, this time for a summit meeting between the United States and the DPRK. There are very few countries that President Trump has visited twice during his time in office, and Vietnam is one of them.

The President was overwhelmed by the hospitality of the Vietnamese people. One of my favorite moments during the visit was when President Trump and Prime Minister Phúc met and waved the U.S. and Vietnamese flags together with a group of students.

That Vietnam was chosen to provide a platform for this vital Summit is a testament to Vietnam’s important role in this region, and in the world.

To quote the President, he said “the world is watching and they are looking at Vietnam.” And Vietnam showed itself to be world class.

Now – what about the next 25 years? How do we build on our success to make the next 25 years even better? Most of you in this room will have careers and raise families over the next 25 years in a Vietnam that is a prosperous leader among Southeast Asian nations. How does the United States fit in?

If there is one message I want you to take away from our discussion today, it is this: The United States is invested in Vietnam’s future.

Our mission statement, our fundamental goal, is for the United States to be a vital partner in supporting the development of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that contributes to international security, engages in free, fair, and reciprocal trade, and respects human rights and the rule of law.

The partnership is both deep and broad. I’ll briefly touch on the key elements, and then I look forward to your questions.

We will continue expanding cooperation on shared security interests, including upholding international law and resisting coercion in the South China Sea and achieving the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea. We have helped Vietnam prepare for natural disasters and supported its first-ever peacekeeping deployment.

The United States respects Vietnam’s system of government. We will continue to speak out in defense of human rights and religious freedom. We raise these issues because we feel the most successful nations are those that promote and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms. The U.S.-Vietnam partnership can achieve its full potential only if Vietnamese workers and civil society can peacefully organize, freely express and exchange views in person and online, and participate in policy-making.

The work the United States and Vietnam has done together to overcome the legacies of war has been instrumental in building a brighter future for our two peoples. Last year, working together, we successfully completed dioxin remediation at Danang Airport.

Our partnership on these issues continues. We look forward to supporting Vietnam’s efforts to remediate dioxin at Bien Hoa airbase. We are also continuing our close cooperation to account for our missing personnel, to remove unexploded ordnance, and to provide support for people with disabilities.

During President Trump’s visit, the United States and Vietnam signed $21 billion in commercial trade deals. These agreements, for Boeing airplanes, engines, and airline services, reflect the deep economic partnership enjoyed by our two nations.

As the President said, we are “moving forward as partners,” and will “achieve great prosperity and success for the American people and for the Vietnamese people.”

We remain committed to achieving free, fair, and reciprocal trade and investment with Vietnam by reducing barriers to trade and advancing market-oriented reforms.

People-to-people ties strengthen the bonds between our nations on a personal and lasting basis. Already, nearly 30,000 Vietnamese students are studying in U.S. universities. U.S. universities are eager to recruit Vietnamese students because they are smart, hard-working, and enrich the dialogue on American campuses.

Vietnamese students no longer need to leave home to benefit from a U.S. style education – last year, the first cohort of undergraduate students enrolled at Fulbright University Vietnam. FUV is sparking important changes to Vietnam’s education system. The United States is proud to support Vietnam as it internationalizes and modernizes its higher education system.

English is the key to Vietnam’s economic future and its role as an international leader. The United States is here to support Minister of Education Nhạ’s goal to make English the second language of Vietnam. We sponsor nine English language programs in Vietnam, including English Language Fellows, the English Access Microscholarship Program, E-Teacher Online Training, and others. Many alumni of these programs are here today, and work every day right here in Vinh to make Minister Nhạ’s vision a reality.

President Ho Chi Minh always hoped to have a good relationship with the United States. Here in his home province, I am glad to say that our countries are moving forward as partners. The history of our two nations reveals the possibilities for peace and progress in our world.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to our discussion.