The planned visit of Nguyen Phu Trong, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, to the U.S. later this year will be historic and signal how far both countries have come, Ambassador Ted Osius told Tuoi Tre News in a recent exclusive interview in Hanoi.
Osius, born in 1961, was appointed to the ambassadorship in Vietnam by President Barack Obama on May 15 last year, replacing David Shear, who took office in the Southeast Asian country in 2011.
Ambassador Osius served as Political Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi from 1996 to 1998.
The diplomat took an oath in Washington, D.C. on December 10, vowing to foster and deepen the Vietnam-U.S. comprehensive partnership established in 2013.
On December 16, 2014 Ambassador Osius arrived in the Vietnamese capital together with his family to serve his tenure.
One day later, he presented his credentials to Vietnam’s State President Truong Tan Sang.
He sat down for an interview about General Secretary Trong’s coming visit to Washington, D.C., the warming Hanoi-Washington relations, and East Vietnam Sea disputes on Wednesday last week.
Many people are curious about the upcoming visit of General Secretary Trong to the U.S. Could you provide us with information about this important event?
I’m not in place to announce the time of the visit. The two countries’ governments will make such announcement. But I can tell you that the U.S. looks forward to his visit in a few short weeks. Preparations are being made and both sides take his visit very seriously. General Secretary Trong will be received with great respect and very appropriately. A successful visit by General Secretary Trong to the U.S. will be my most successful achievement. I think the visit is historic and tremendously important and signals how far we have come.
There have been bilateral meetings between the two sides’ senior defense officials, including the meeting between Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and his Vietnamese counterpart, General Phung Quang Thanh, in Hanoi; and Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh and U.S. officials at the Shangri-La Dialogue last month. How do you assess the prospect of bilateral defense trade?
When the Defense Minister of Vietnam, Phung Quang Thanh, and Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter signed the Joint Vision statement on June 1, it included a broad commitment to increase defense trade. But I don’t think a specific commitment has been made at all. The Vietnamese side is evaluating what its needs are and what their requirements are. My estimation is that Vietnam will be very careful in how it spends its limited resources in order to make strategic decisions about what it needs most for defense. Whatever defense partners Vietnam chooses, we will show all the options of what we can provide. We are very helpful.
Vietnam’s Deputy Defense Minister, Nguyen Chi Vinh, told Tuoi Tre News in a recent interview that Hanoi prefers Washington to contribute to ensuring long-term stability in the region for mutual needs based on international law. How possible is that?
I think that is true. I think it is still in the early stages. We can deepen it a great deal but based on the 2011 MoU, we have been pursuing all areas we agree on, including: exchanging high-level visits, including Secretary Carter; we have been working together on search and rescue, humanitarian and disaster relief; on UN peacekeeping and maritime security. I think now with the Joint Vision statement, we have the opportunity to improve that relationship further.
With regard to the [East Vietnam Sea] issue, when Defense Secretary Carter visited Vietnam in early June, he proposed to all parties in the [East Vietnam Sea] that there should be no further land reclamation activities, no further militarization in the sea permanently. And he called on all parties to pursue diplomatic means to solve the issue and to lower tensions. I think Vietnam welcomes that measure.
I would like to share that there has been progress in all nine pillars of our comprehensive partnership, not just a single one. We are trying to strengthen all the pillars.
Recently, the House of Representatives rejected the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA). The TPA bill can't go to the president's desk without TAA, which the House turned down with a vote of 126-302. What are your views on the prospects of TPP?
The TPP negotiation will be a longer process than some hope. But I am still optimistic that the deal will be signed this year before your Party Congress and our Presidential Election.
Vietnam has shipped the first two tons of lychees to the U.S. When TPP is complete, there will be more trade.
What can you tell us about activities to celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations (July 11, 1995 – July 11, 2015) between Vietnam and the U.S.?
We do not limit ourselves to one month or one place. We celebrate every month throughout Vietnam. There will be big celebrations in the U.S. as well. Both sides will use this important ceremony to strengthen our relationship and create visions for the future.