US-Vietnam Defense Trade Still “Nascent”

A steady stream of US officials has visited Vietnam in the last year, as the United States is investing more time and effort in building ties with Vietnam, said Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro. The bilateral dialogue has advanced much in the past few years, Shapiro, who visited Hanoi in June, told reporters in Washington, D.C., July 27. “The willingness to talk about important security issues has really improved,” he said. The South China Sea has been on the agenda as have arms sales, he confirmed. The defense trade between the two countries is still “nascent,” and the United States is currently focused on non-lethal sales in areas such as airlift and disaster-relief capabilities, he said. But there is a great deal of potential, especially to build Vietnam’s maritime and air capabilities, he noted. However, US officials have made it clear there will be no sales of lethal weapons until the Vietnamese improve their human rights record, said Shapiro. “I hope we see improvement because we would like to be able to move the relationship in that direction,” he said. (See also A SEA Change from Air Force Magazine’s July issue.)