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Thayer Vietnam-US Defence Relations at Historic Turning Point?

Thayer Vietnam-US Defence Relations at Historic Turning Point?

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Published by Carlyle Alan Thayer
Three briefs on US-Vietnam defence relations: are they at an historic turuing point? will the US lift its arms embargo? what does the future hold?
Three briefs on US-Vietnam defence relations: are they at an historic turuing point? will the US lift its arms embargo? what does the future hold?

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Carlyle Alan Thayer on Jul 07, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Background Briefing:Vietnam-U.S. Defense Relations:Historic Turning Point?Carlyle A. ThayerJune 4, 2012
[client name deleted]1. Could you provide an assessment on the extent to which Defense Secretary
Panetta’s trip to Hanoi signifies that Viet
nam and the US are turning a page in historyto meet a common threat?ANSWER: Vietnam has responded to China's assertion that the United States is anoutside power in regional security by inviting Secretary Panetta to Cam Ranh Bay.Both sides will deny, but nobody will believe, that Panetta's visit is not aimed atsending a strategic message to Beijing that Chinese assertiveness will be resisted.2. Also, given that the visit was kept quiet until he actually went there, to whatextent does that reveal U.S. and Vietnamese sensitivities over how China mightreact? Finally, does it change the balance of power in the region at all?ANSWER: Vietnam's 2009 Defence White Paper set of what I termed a policy of "three no's" - no foreign alliances, no foreign bases, and no bilateral relationsdirected against a third party. Vietnam is willing to skirt this policy by inviting allcountries to use its commercial facilities at Cam Ranh Bay. The United States was thefirst to oblige by sending three US Military Sea Lift Command vessels there for minorrepairs. Vietnam is acting subtly so as not to provoke China. But the messageVietnam wants to send is clear: the United States is a legitimate actor in maritimesecurity and it presence is welcome.China is left to ponder whether an increase in pressure on Vietnam will lead to achange in policy.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam-U.S. Defense Relations: HistoricTurning Point?
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, June 4, 2012.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Background Briefing:Vietnam Requests U.S. Lifting of Arms Sale EmbargoCarlyle A. ThayerJune 7, 2012
[client name deleted]Vietnam is asking the US to lift the lethal weapon ban to modernize the military.Could you tell us more about the arms embargo and what kind of weapons the USprohibit selling to Vietnam.Do you think the US will consider selling lethal weapons to Vietnam? What are thehurdles?United States prohibitions on arms sales to Vietnam (and many other countries aswell) fall under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) issued by theDepartment of State. These regulations were amended in 2007 under the Bush
Administration. The amendments permit the United States to consider “licenses,
other approvals, exports or imports of non-lethal defense articles and defense
services” to Vietnam on a case by case basis.The U.S. retains the following restrictions: it will deny “licenses, other approvals,
exports or imports of lethal defense articles and services dest
ined for Vietnam.” The
defense articles are included on the United States Munitions List.The 2007 amendments to ITAR further specified that U.S. restrictions also cover thecomponents of lethal weapons and non-lethal crowd control equipment and nightvision devises to be used by any Vietnamese agency with responsibility for groundsecurity.In other words, the U.S. will not sell any arms, offensive or defensive, or their parts
that can be used to kill. This would include spare parts for much of the “war booty”
Vietnam acquired when the Vietnam War ended. This would include spare parts forM113 Armored Personnel Carriers.ITAR was established under the Arms Export Control Act enacted by the U.S.Congress and Executive Order 11958 issued by the President.The U.S. is not considering selling lethal weapons to Vietnam. Former AmbassadorMichael Michalak made this clear in an interview on Vietnamese television to markthe 15
anniversary of diplomatic relations. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton alsostated U.S. policy when she visited Vietnam in 2010. Clinton stated she wanted tothat U.S. relations with Vietnam to the next level, but human rights and religiousfreedom were the major obstacles.
Thayer Consultancy
ABN # 65 648 097 123
Recently when Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman visited Vietnam they
claim they were presented a “wish list” of arms that Vietnam would like to procure.
They too indicated this would not be possible until the human rights situationimproved. This means that even if the Obama Administration wanted to alter U.S.policy it would face opposition in the Senate making it highly unlikely any change of policy would be approved.It is up to Vietnam to identify what items of military equipment it needs that are notcovered by ITAR and seek a license on a case by case basis. Vietnam could test thewaters by applying for defensive systems such as ground radar and navalsurveillance aircraft.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “
Vietnam Requests U.S. Lifting of Arms SaleEmbargo
Thayer Consultancy Background Brief 
, June 7, 2012.

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