Despit longstanding demands from the US government that Vietnam improve its human rights record before the US would lift its arms embargo, Obama announced at a news conference in Hanoi on Monday that the embargo would be lifted immediately.
Obama said that human rights “is an area where we still have differences” with Vietnam, but offered no assurances that anything would change. The New York Times reports that human rights advocates are dismayed.
Human rights advocates, who had asked Mr. Obama to hold off on lifting the ban until Vietnam had released some prominent political prisoners and promised to stop the police beatings of protesters, condemned the decision.
“President Obama just gave Vietnam a reward that they don’t deserve,” said John Sifton, the Asia policy director of Human Rights Watch.
Even if there are no immediate plans to sell military equipment to Vietnam, Obama also announced several new commercial agreements worth more than $16 billion, including one in which Boeing will sell 100 aircraft and Pratt & Whitney will sell 135 advanced aircraft engines to VietJet Air, a privately owned low-cost airline.
Obama tried to justify his decision by predicting that the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade deal among 12 nations, including Vietnam, that has very little chance of passing Congress before the November election, would someday become law. The only problem with that prediction? All three remaining presidential candidates oppose the deal.
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