“I am really proud of the fact that the Vietnam-US relationship is very good and we have every reason to expect that it will continue to get better in the future,” says US National Security Advisor General James Jones.
On July 11, 1995, the then US President Bill Clinton, announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Over the past 15 years, Vietnam-US relations have constantly developed, resulting in beneficial outcomes in various fields and with mutual respect and goodwill from both sides.
Marking the 15th anniversary of Vietnam–US diplomatic relations, this year Jones granted an interview to a VOV reporter on the future prospects for bilateral ties.
Reporter: Could you please review the Vietnam-US relationship over the past 15 years?
General Jones: First of all I am really very proud of the fact that the relationship is very good one and we have every reason to expect that it will continue to improve it better.
Obviously, I think it started with the help and compassion that the Vietnamese government showed in our efforts to recover those missing in action (MIA) and we appreciate that very much. This grew into a more normal relationship which is highlighted by our trade relations. Starting at only a few hundred million US dollars, it is now a US$16-billion trade relationship, which is remarkable and there is no reason why that shouldn’t continue and even grow.
We have Vietnam as chair of ASEAN and we have, I think, a very interesting visit with a US navy ship commanded by a young man who came from Vietnam and rose to the commandership in the US Navy, which I think is a wonderful human interest story. And over here, we have quite a few people who came from Vietnam originally and who now travel freely back and forward to see their families and I have a very close group of friends who own a barbershop in my town so I know about their families and they all have families in Vietnam and when they come back they talk about the wonderful progress that Vietnamese society have made in the fields of medicine and education.
So this is a very strong bond and I am personally very proud of that.
Reporter: How do you expect relations between the US and Vietnam to develop in the future? And which spheres will be prioritised to promote bilateral relations?
General Jones: I think that the ties will continue to grow. There are no barriers to a much closer and growing relationship. We think that Vietnam has come along so quickly that it can now exert some leadership in the region. Vietnam can now play a leadership role by showing examples of a better way for countries to progress and provide for a welfare system.
I think that we have a balance, though it depends on how the world changes. In a few years it could be a security relationship in other years it could be trade but I think the growing friendship, the trust and the confidence are there and very strong and I think they will continue to develop.
Reporter: What is Vietnam’s role in the US policy towards ASEAN and Asia? And what do you expect Vietnam to do for ASEAN?
General Jones: I think because of the Vietnam’s success, there will be a general expectation from other countries that you should lead and lead by example. . Vietnam is on the threshold of becoming a very responsible nation which should be capable of leading on big issues in the region and on global matters.
Reporter: Vietnam and the US currently have some differences on freedom, freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, do you think the two countries will settle these issues? And how they will be settled?
General Jones: Some of these issues take a long time. We certainly offer ourselves to the world for criticism where we sometimes fall short. We recognize that we have a free society with the ability to self-criticize. Are we living up to our values? Do we do what we say we’re going to do, if we don’t we’ll correct it.
As I speak, I am very optimistic, like friends who can agree to discuss all kinds of things without being overly sensitive. And I think that as long as our leaders show goodwill and the willingness to work together, these issues will be resolved over time and we will find that a firm foundation.
Reporter: After 15 years of normalization, despite certain differences on some issues, the relationship between Vietnam and US has developed to its highest level on various issues, including security, national defense and nuclear cooperation. What is your opinion of such cooperation?
General Jones: I think on that a broad range of issues that define bilateral relations where Vietnam is concerned it is very good and has potential for the future. I think that the relationship will continue to develop, that we will engage in many more issues, for example, education, cultural exchanges, scientific exchanges, energy and climate change are huge issues for every country.
We have to worry about things like the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism which can appear in any country. So in this very small, much more globalized world where communications are so quick, it is very important that we remain engaged in all of these issues and let the relationship grow as far as it can.
Reporter: As US National Security advisor, how does the US-Vietnam relationship contribute to the Asia Pacific region’s security?
General Jones: It is one of bright lights in our security relationship I have highlighted the tremendous effort that we have made in trade. Good trade relationship means greater stability for people in Vietnam and elsewhere and that translates to more security.
But I think that with regard to the Asia Pacific region, the US considers itself an Asia Pacific country as well. The peaceful development of the relationships between every country on the Pacific rim is part of our national strategy to make the world a safer and more peaceful place through better understanding, exchanging views and greater cooperation across a whole variety of issues, not just military to military.
Security in the 21st century is far more about how we handle our climate, energy and trade, scientific cooperation, and education. These are things we should be worried about in common. If we able to do that we all prosper and benefit. That is why I think the future for the US and Vietnam is very bright.
Reporter: Does President Obama have a plan to visit Vietnam in the near future? What kind of issues will he raise at the ASEAN-US Summit this year?
General Jones: Last year, President Obama spent more time out of the country than any other president in his first year of office. But I am quite sure that at some point, the president will visit this very important region.
I am also happy to hear that the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also has plans to visit Vietnam, so we will have a very senior person representing our government, and the issues that I think she will raise will be will pretty much what we have talked about already.
Reporter: Thank you.