Ambassador Kritenbrink’s Remarks for the 25th Anniversary Gala Events

Friday, October 9, 2020, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

Good evening and welcome! We’re thrilled that you’re here with us this evening as we celebrate the 244th U.S. Independence Day and the 25th anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral partnership.

A very warm welcome to everyone joining us tonight at different locations here in Hanoi, as well as in Ho Chi Minh City. It’s wonderful to be connected with you all to mark this very special occasion!

Due to the challenges posed by COVID-19 this year, we are holding this event a bit later, of course, than we normally do. And in the name of social distancing, we are holding multiple events simultaneously, so as to keep numbers at each event at a manageable level. To all of our friends at the other locations in Hanoi, I look forward to swinging by to greet each of you in person a bit later tonight.

Here at the Metropole Hotel, I would particularly like to thank our guest of honor, Acting Minister of Health Nguyễn Thanh Long. Mister Minister, we are honored by your presence.

I want to recognize other distinguished guests, including:

  • In Ho Chi Minh City, Former President Trương Tấn Sang
  • Chairman Phan Thanh Bình, Committee of Culture, Education, Youth and Children, National Assembly
  • Vice Foreign Minister Lê Hoài Trung
  • Vice Foreign Minister Nguyễn Quốc Dũng
  • Vice Minister Đỗ Thắng Hải, Ministry of Industry and Trade
  • Vice Minister Lê Công Thành, Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Lieutenant General Nguyễn Trọng Bình, Deputy Chief of General Staff, Vietnamese People’s Army
  • In Ho Chi Minh City, Vice Chairman of the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Lê Thanh Liêm
  • Three former Ambassadors to the United States
    Ambassador Nguyễn Tâm Chiến (2001 – 2007)
    Ambassador Nguyễn Quốc Cường (2011 – 2014)
    Ambassador Phạm Quang Vinh (2014 – 2018)
  • Chair of the Vietnam Nation Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO) Ambassador Nguyễn Phương Nga

And I also want to recognize our newly arrived Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy, Mr. Chris Klein. I would like to acknowledge our many donors as well, without whose support this event would not have been possible. My sincerest gratitude for your generous contributions that have strengthened the U.S.-Vietnam partnership.

As we reflect on how much the United States and Vietnam have achieved together over the past 25 years, it is clear that our progress has been extraordinary and that we have much to celebrate.

To arrive at this landmark moment, our predecessors had to set aside their differences, acknowledge our history, and work together to sow the seeds of peace and reconciliation that have developed into the vibrant bilateral relationship we have today. Today, our nations are trusted partners with a friendship anchored in mutual respect and trust, including our respect for one another’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and respective political systems.

Moreover, today our stated goal in the U.S. Mission is to support the development of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. In other words, it is in America’s national interest to see Vietnam succeed.

When I hear people say that this amazing success of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is a “miracle,” I often reflect on what the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam, Pete Peterson once told me over dinner nearly three years ago: namely, that our shared progress is indeed remarkable, but it was not an accident and was not a miracle.

Rather, everything we have achieved has been built on the courage, goodwill, and painstaking work of those who came before us. The partnership we share today is the result of countless actions taken by dedicated individuals on both sides who believed in the possibility of peace, united by the common belief that both the United States and Vietnam could work together in learning from and putting aside the past.

Just look at how far we have come in the past 25 years. In 1995, when President Bill Clinton announced the normalization of U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam, our two countries had nearly zero trade and very limited people-to-people connections. Today, we share $77 billion in bilateral trade.

Our people-to-people ties are stronger than ever. In 1995, fewer than 60,000 Americans visited Vietnam each year. Last year, nearly 700,000 Americans traveled to Vietnam. In 1995, there were fewer than 800 Vietnamese studying at universities in the United States. Every year, nearly 30,000 young Vietnamese are pursuing studies at all levels across the United States. Fulbright University Vietnam is educating impressive students who will someday soon make great contributions to Vietnam and the U.S.-Vietnam relationship. And thanks to the agreement we signed in July, U.S. Peace Corps volunteers will soon be here to teach English, further strengthening our people-to-people ties.

The breadth and depth of U.S.-Vietnam bilateral cooperation is simply stunning. We partner on everything from security and trade, education and war legacies, to energy, health, transnational crime, and much more.

These achievements would have been unimaginable 25 years ago.

To all of my Vietnamese friends, but especially Minister Long, I would like to state that while we are all facing great challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, these are also times of hope and renewal. Vietnam has done an extraordinary job controlling COVID, perhaps the best in the world. We have been proud to be your partner in this effort. The United States has contributed over $13 million as well as a recent donation of 100 ventilators to support Vietnam’s fight against COVID-19 and contribute to its economic recovery.

At the same time, I have been so moved as the Government of Vietnam, private citizens, businesses, and other organizations have donated millions of masks and protective equipment to help Americans in our fight against COVID-19. These donations have saved lives, and for that we will be eternally grateful.

From activities that started 30 years ago to assist people with disabilities to our current efforts to prevent and control COVID-19, together we have improved the lives of countless Vietnamese citizens. Over the past 20 years, the United States has invested more than $1.8 billion in total assistance for Vietnam, including more than $925 million for health. I am confident that U.S.-Vietnam cooperation on health will remain a bright spot in our bilateral relationship.

The United States also enthusiastically supports Vietnam as it has assumed positions of global leadership this year, from its term on the United Nations Security Council, to its skillful chairing of ASEAN during a pivotal time in the organization’s history.

Looking back over the past 25 years, the example of our reconciliation will forever serve as a profound lesson to the rest of the world of what can be achieved when we set aside our differences and move forward as trusted friends instead of foes.

Yet, I think it is important to recognize that our work is not done. There is still a great deal more we can do together. I think we should be incredibly optimistic about what we can achieve in the years ahead as our partnership only continues to strengthen.

So, let us redouble our efforts to ensure that our bilateral partnership and friendship remains strong and resilient for the next 25 years and beyond. I wish everyone a very enjoyable 25th Anniversary celebration, and a belated happy birthday to the United States and to all my fellow Americans here in Vietnam.

I wish you all great health, prosperity, and success.

Thank you very much!