President Barack Obama says the United States will end its embargo on trade in lethal arms with Vietnam. Rough cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Monday (May 23) that Washington will fully lift an embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam, underlining warming relations between the former foes amid rising tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea. Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since ties were restored in 1995, has made a strategic 'rebalance' towards Asia-Pacific a centerpiece of his foreign policy. Vietnam, where the United States was at war until 1975, has become a critical part of that strategy amid concerns about China's growing military might and its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea. The decision to lift the arms trade ban, which followed intense debate within the Obama administration, suggested that U.S. concerns about China's assertiveness outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and that Washington would lose leverage for reforms. Lifting the ban will likely upset China, which sees U.S. support for rival South China Sea claimants like Vietnam and the Philippines as interference and an attempt to establish hegemony in the region. Washington insists its priority is ensuring freedom of navigation and flight.