Good morning and welcome.
I am truly excited to open this important conference with my friend, Dr. Dang Dinh Quy. I want to say a special thanks to so many people here today who have played such an important role in our relationship. I would like to recognize Vice Foreign Minister Ngoc for his leadership.
I know you all join me in extending the deepest and warmest of thanks to Ambassador Pete Peterson who led the way and has done so much for this relationship. I would also like to recognize Ambassador Michalak, Dr. Vikram Singh, Ms. Ginny Foote, Murray Hiebert, Mike DiGregorio, Frank Jannuzi, and Nguyen Xuan Thanh for coming so far to share their expertise. This event kicks off our year-long celebration of the 20th anniversary of normalization of U.S.-Vietnam diplomatic relations.
As the agenda of this conference makes clear, the bilateral relationship is deepening and becoming ever more diverse.
Today, we look back at how close our countries have grown in that short time. We will examine how the ties between our people have strengthened. We will discuss how we can advance the Comprehensive Partnership. We will celebrate how quickly Vietnam has developed economically. And—perhaps most importantly—we will develop a vision for the next twenty years and beyond.
President Obama called people-to-people ties “the glue” that strengthens relations between nations. I don’t think we can overstate the importance of building these types of bridges between our nations. Just last week, I attended the 20th anniversary celebration of the founding of FETP in Ho Chi Minh City. I cannot think of a better symbol for how far our two nations have come and how far we can go than FETP and Fulbright University Vietnam. These types of personal ties – in addition to the institutional ties – are central to building our shared future.
The U.S. goal is clear: we want to help Vietnam become a strong, prosperous, and independent country that respects the rule of law and human rights.
Each pillar of the Comprehensive Partnership, signed by Presidents Obama and Sang in 2013, reflects this broad commitment. It’s our job, therefore, to sustain and nourish this commitment.
This conference will help us highlight, identify, and discuss bold opportunities to push our bilateral relationship even further. I am confident, as I know all of you are as well, that the first twenty years was merely a prologue to a much longer and richer story.
I want to thank the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam for hosting this important event. I also want to thank the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Portland State University for their important contributions to making this conference a reality.
I look forward to our discussions and I hope that today’s conference will inspire discussions and lead us to move the relationship forward in new and productive ways.