HANOI • US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday lauded the warming of US-Vietnam ties but said the scope of relations, and military deals, would depend on the willingness of the country's communist rulers to protect human rights and freedoms.
Mr Kerry is Vietnam's latest high-profile visitor from Washington as the former enemies mark two decades of calibrated engagement since the normalisation of ties, which have expanded rapidly in the past year.
In a speech to mark the anniversary, Mr Kerry said barriers of "mistrust and misunderstanding" were falling and urged Vietnam to show greater commitment to pursuing legal reforms and allowing freedom of expression and assembly.
"Progress on human rights and the rule of law will provide the foundation for a deeper and more sustainable strategic partnership," Mr Kerry said.
"Only you can decide the pace and direction of the process."
He also met President Truong Tan Sang, who recognised the importance of guaranteeing human rights, Mr Kerry said. "He couldn't have been more clear about how important it is (to Vietnam's leaders) to respect the rights of their people," he said.
Mr Kerry also expressed hope that a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal between the US, Vietnam and 10 other countries will be reached this year. "We are hoping very much that over the course of a couple of months, before the end of the year, (the) TPP can be completed," he said after meeting Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE