November 19th, 2006 03:30 EST
Rice Says, Vietnam Has Bright Future
Washington – A country that seemed inexorably linked with war "has come a very long way in a very short period of time," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a roundtable interview with Vietnamese journalists in Hanoi, Vietnam, November 17.
"It seems that commerce and economic development is just everywhere," said Rice when asked if Vietnam was how she imagined it to be. "I was probably not prepared for how modern the economy is here in Vietnam, but I expected the beauty of the city."
The secretary accompanied President Bush to the region to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. (See related article.)
Reiterating the significance of the changes in Vietnam, Rice said she was pleased to remove Vietnam from the State Department’s list of countries of particular concern for severe violations of religious freedom. The secretary of state also expressed her hope that Vietnam will be granted permanent normal trade relations with the United States and eventually will achieve accession to the World Trade Organization.
"We’re all very supportive of what is a remarkable economic transition that’s taking place in Vietnam," Rice said.
Rice also affirmed the United States’ "strong relations" with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the important role Vietnam plays in that organization. "Because Vietnam is a large county within Southeast Asia and with real strong economic potential, I think that the United States is interested in extending and deepening our relations," she said.
ASEAN is "dynamic economically and politically," Rice said, but added that problems remain within the organization, specifically in its recognition of the Burmese junta that continues to oppress its citizens.
However, Rice went on to praise ASEAN’s response to the bird flu crisis and for the organization’s efforts to counter terrorism, points also made by President Bush in a meeting with ASEAN leaders on the sidelines of the APEC meeting. (See related article.)
When asked about the history between the United States and Vietnam and the consequences of the war in the 1960s and early 1970s, the secretary said that as cooperation and the relationship between the two countries continues to develop and improve, "we should be able to talk about anything and about concerns of Vietnamese people."
She added that the issues that remain unresolved in the aftermath of the war, such as locating military personnel still listed as missing in action, must be addressed.
Questioned about what advice she can offer to Vietnamese youth, Rice suggested that students should consider studying abroad. "I’m a big believer in exchange of students, both students going to the United States and students coming to Vietnam," said Rice. She also cited the importance of learning foreign languages.
A transcript of Rice’s roundtable interview is available on the State Department Web site.
For additional information, see Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)