Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken
April 15, 2023
Good afternoon. I’ve long been long looking forward to returning to Vietnam and making my first visit here as Secretary of State. I was here when I was Deputy Secretary in 2016 but I am so pleased to be back today.
A decade since the United States and Vietnam launched our Comprehensive Partnership, and nearly 28 years since we normalized relations, our nations have forged a relationship that’s robust, dynamic, and consequential. I am here on behalf of President Biden to further broaden and deepen that partnership, following President Biden’s call with General Secretary Trong last month and building on earlier high-level visits, including from Vice President Harris, Secretary of Defense Austin, U.S. Trade Representative Tai, USAID Administrator Power, and recently as well, Members of Congress. Throughout my engagements on this trip, I focused on how the United States can continue to support Vietnam’s success – which is good for the Vietnamese people, for Americans, and indeed for the entire region.
Our countries are collaborating on an incredibly broad range of shared interests, and we believe that, by supporting Vietnam’s ambitions, we advance our own: from the creation of American jobs and the strengthening of American businesses to progress on the climate crisis that affects all of us, to preventing pandemics. I also focused on how our countries can advance a free and open Indo-Pacific, one that is at peace and grounded in respect for the rules-based international order. When we talk about “free and open,” we mean countries being free to choose their own path and their own partners. And that problems will be dealt with openly, rules will be reached transparently and applied fairly, and goods, ideas, and people will flow freely across land, the seas, the skies, and cyberspace.
In my meetings with General Secretary Trong, with Prime Minister Chinh, with Foreign Minister Son, and External Relations Commission Chairman Trung, I discussed our work to promote broad-based prosperity in Vietnam and throughout the region, including through the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Vietnam has joined negotiations on all four pillars of IPEF, which will help lead a race to the top on the issues that are shaping the 21st century economy, including supply chain resilience, the clean energy transition, and digital connectivity – and that would benefit Americans, and people across the region.
We discussed our mutual respect for ASEAN centrality and our close partnership through regional economic frameworks, including APEC, which the United States is proud to be hosting this year, and the Mekong-U.S. Partnership. We appreciate Vietnam’s indispensable leadership in solving development challenges in the Mekong region – made worse by dam construction, climate change, and overfishing.
We’re also growing our bilateral economic partnership. The U.S. is helping Vietnam double down on key reforms it’s embraced – including on labor, intellectual property, and fair trade – which have made it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. We believe that Vietnam can achieve its goal of becoming a connected, high-income country by 2045 by pursuing growth that lifts all communities, while building resilience to adapt to a changing climate. We know Vietnam is increasingly vulnerable to threats posed by the climate crisis. As Vietnam takes steps to become a leader of the clean energy transition, the United States is investing in its tremendous potential. We’re launching new bilateral climate initiatives announced by Vice President Harris during her August 2021 visit to Vietnam, which do everything from conserving ecosystems and reducing emissions from rice farming in the Mekong Delta to expanding a market-driven clean energy system and scaling up adoption of electric vehicles to leveraging our private sectors to drive climate action. We’re also harnessing the power of regional frameworks like the Just Energy Transition Partnership that Vietnam recently joined – which is going to deploy $15.5 billion dollars to help the country deliver on its ambitious Net Zero 2050 goal – as well as the Japan-U.S.-Mekong Power Partnership.
We’re collaborating to build up Vietnam’s public health capacity, including by establishing a national CDC here in Vietnam. We’ve partnered closely to combat the COVID-19 pandemic: with the United States donating more than 40 million vaccine doses, following Vietnam’s donation of millions of articles of PPE during the early part of the pandemic, when America was at its time of greatest need. I have to say it’s a very powerful example of countries coming together and coming to each other for assistance when each of us need it the most.
Our conversations today also focused on how the United States and Vietnam can expand our work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific. The United States and Vietnam have common interests in maintaining respect for international law, unimpeded commerce, and freedom of navigation and overflight. The United States will support Vietnam and other southeast Asian nations and help them build the capacity to maintain their sovereignty and territorial integrity. As part of our growing bilateral security partnership, we’re finalizing the transfer of a third U.S. Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam, complementing a fleet of 24 patrol boats and other equipment, training, and operational facilities we’ve provided since 2016. All of these efforts bolster Vietnam’s capacity to contribute to maritime peace and stability in the South China Sea.
The United States is committed to supporting a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. And we respect Vietnam’s right to shape its future under its own political system. At the same time, we continue to underscore how future progress on human rights is essential to unleashing the full potential of the Vietnamese people. That is the central focus of the U.S.-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
Finally, the United States is committed to our ongoing work to address the legacies of the war, even as we focus on the future. This is a matter of trust, of commitment, and duty. We’re continuing our joint efforts to clear unexploded ordnance – next month, we will complete the survey of the heavily bombed Quang Tri Province. We’re making significant progress cleaning up dioxin hotspots from the war – and, last month, we announced a new $73 million contract to treat contaminated soil and sediment at Bien Hoa Air Base. And we are continuing the important humanitarian work to account for those missing from the war – including by increasing Vietnam’s capacity to identify its own missing and dead. We recognize the longstanding support of the Government of Vietnam to account for U.S. personnel lost during the war. Our reciprocal cooperation is crucial for ensuring families from both countries receive the closure they deserve. Again, this is very important.
Today, we took another step to strengthen our relationship by breaking ground at our new Embassy compound. When completed, our new Embassy in Hanoi will be a state-of-art facility worthy of our ambitious vision for the future of our partnership – and worthy of the American and Vietnamese people who work every day to make that vision a reality.
With that, I’d be happy to take a few questions.