US State Dept. Issues Language To Allow Defense Exports to Vietnam

2:16:00 PM
WASHINGTON — On President Barack Obama’s first day in Beijing at the start of a weeklong swing through Asia, the US State Department published new language in the Federal Register to reflect a change in its policy to allow exports of lethal defense items to Vietnam.

The changes were first announced in early October when Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh met in Washington with National Security Adviser Susan Rice and Secretary of State John Kerry.

But the official revision of the State Department’s International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) didn’t come until Nov. 10.

The notice said that it is “in the best interests of U.S. foreign policy, national security, and human rights concerns that exports of lethal defense articles and defense services to Vietnam may be authorized on a case-by-case basis when in support of maritime security and domain awareness.”

Despite the language about human rights, however, the government of Vietnam maintains a spotty track record in respecting international norms for the treatment of its civilians.

The State Department’s own 2013 annual report on human rights maintained that Vietnam placed “severe government restrictions on citizens’ political rights, particularly their right to change their government.”

Still, experts have said they expect Vietnam to be interested in maritime surveillance aircraft, likely excess P-3 aircraft that the US Navy is looking to retire as it brings more advanced P-8s online, as well as surveillance equipment.

In 2013, Kerry announced an agreement to provide Vietnam with five fast, unarmed patrol vessels.

After spending time in Beijing at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, Obama will travel to Burma and Australia to meet with leaders there.

US Navy P-3 Orion anti-submarine and maritime surveillance aircraft.

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