Secretary of State
Government Guest House
December 16, 2013
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Excellency John Kerry, U.S. Secretary of State, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, ladies and gentlemen, correspondents; you may now have the honor to introduce Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to co-chair the press conference announcing the outcomes of the talk between the two sides.
To begin with, I’d like to invite His Excellency Phan Binh Minh to take the floor.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: His Excellency Secretary of State John Kerry, dear correspondents, member of the press; first I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Mr. John Kerry for coming back to Vietnam in the capacity of the Secretary of State. I’d like to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your warm sentiments and friendship toward Vietnam and its people. Once again, I would like to highly value and commend your significant contribution in the past capacity as the senator and in the current capacity as the Secretary of State to promoting bilateral relationship between Vietnam and U.S.
Mr. Secretary and I had an open, candid, and constructive, meaningful talk on many issues of bilateral relations in order to promote this relationship as well as in regional and international issues. We note with satisfaction the practical and meaningful development of bilateral relations and multilateral framework cooperation between the two countries ever since the establishment of comprehensive partnership between our two countries. In the official visit to the U.S. by His Excellency State President Truong Tan Sang, we have discussed specific measures to further promote comprehensive partnership between the two countries in all areas. The two sides have agreed to enhance and intensify exchange of high-level delegations and contacts, and further promote cooperation in economic trade and investment. The U.S. is currently the leading trading partners and the seventh largest investor in Vietnam, however many potential for further cooperation remain untapped between the two countries, especially in economic trade and investment. We should further promote this to the level of comprehensive partnership.
Mr. Secretary and I have agreed that we should further promote cooperation in science and technology, including the official signing of the 123 civilian nuclear agreement and further promote cooperation in education, health, climate change, humanitarian issues, and addressing the consequences of war in the coming time.
I would take this opportunity to express my high appreciation of the USAID signing of contract for the environment impact assessment at the hotspots in Bien Hoa Airport and fact that the USAID and MOLISA of Vietnam have signed MOU on resolving the unexploded ordnance.
Mr. Secretary and I also agreed that the two sides would maintain candid and positive and constructive dialogues on issues of differences, including human rights. We also exchanged on the further implementation and enhancement of cooperation within the framework of regional and international forums, and we reaffirmed the support for ASEAN’s centrality to an emerging regional architecture.
On the East Sea issue, we emphasized the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, and maritime safety, and we share the view that all territorial disputes in the East Sea must be resolved by peaceful means on the basis of international law, especially the UNCLOS 1982, and the relevant party should strictly observe the DOC and soon move forward to the conclusion of a COC.
MODERATOR: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister Pham Binh Minh. Next I would like to invite Secretary John Kerry.
SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Minh. It’s a pleasure to be with you again. I’m happy to be with you here. And I’m delighted to be in Hanoi for the first time as Secretary of State and to see with my own eyes how our relationship with Vietnam is deepening and moving forward. It’s meaningful to me personally to be here, obviously, because of the history, but frankly, much more so right now because of the future.
I want to thank my friend, the Deputy Prime Minister now and Foreign Minister Minh, for his hospitality and for a very productive discussion, continuing discussions which we had in New York and at the conferences, the ASEAN, as well as my meetings with the president, President Sang, and with the Prime Minister, Prime Minister Dung. I’m also looking forward to meeting with Prime Minister Dung in a little while, and with General Secretary Trong later today.
This is my fourth visit to Asia since I became Secretary, and I want to re-emphasize that the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia Pacific has been a top priority for President Obama from day one when he came into office. And today, our economic, our diplomatic, our strategic, and our people-to-people initiatives throughout the region are stronger than ever. What some are calling our rebalance within the rebalance, which is an intensified focus on Southeast Asia, is now a central part of our policy, as is our engagement with ASEAN, which sits at the heart of the Asia Pacific’s regional architecture. Nowhere is this more important or more visible, frankly, than in the heightened investment and engagement than right here in Vietnam.
When I touched down in Hanoi in 1991 for the first time as a civilian and as a senator, I have stark memories of a very, very different Hanoi. There were still laws that then restricted people’s interactions with foreigners. There was none of the vibrancy and energy that you see today in terms of the stores and shops and entrepreneurial activity. There were actually very, very few cars back then. Almost everybody was on a bicycle, bicycles all over; the streets were literally filled with bicycles. And there were very few motorbikes, very few motorcycles, not even that many hotels. I remember staying in the Government Guest House.
Today, the energy of this city is absolutely remarkable, as is the energy of this country, and the transformation is nothing short of amazing. In the years since we lifted the embargo and normalized relations, Vietnam has become a modern nation and an important partner of the United States. And it is a nation today with almost 40 percent of its population under the age of 25, all people teeming with energy and enthusiasm for the potential of the future.
Last July, President Obama and President Sang signed a new level of collaboration with the announcement of the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership. And I want to briefly touch on four specific areas where we are deepening our bilateral relationship.
First and foremost, we know that education, education of our people-to-people ties, are laying the foundation for a close U.S.-Vietnam partnership in years to come. And we’ve made great progress in strengthening those ties. Today, more than 16,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the United States, more than almost every other country in the world. In Ho Chi Minh City, I had the opportunity to meet and talk and listen to some of the impressive young men and women who were the alumni among the 4,000 alumni of the Fulbright program here in Vietnam. I take special pride in this program because when I was a younger senator I initiated efforts in the Senate to start this program. And before long, it became the largest Fulbright program in the world. Today, it is the second-largest program in the world. It has been an extraordinary success so far, and we look forward to building on that success by continuing to work with the Vietnamese Government to establish a full-fledged Fulbright University in Vietnam in the near future.
The second area that we are focusing on is trade. Trade is perhaps the clearest example of how far our nations have come in the 18 years since we normalized relations. Two-way trade between the United States and Vietnam has increased since 1995 more than 50-fold. Last week, we launched the Governance for Inclusive Growth program, through which the United States will help support Vietnam’s ongoing transition to a more inclusive, market-based economy that is based on the rule of law.
And as I told business leaders in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday, the assistance that we provide through this program, this new program, will also help Vietnam to implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Once finalized, TPP will raise standards, including labor standards, open markets up. It will create millions of new jobs, not just in the United States and Vietnam but throughout the Asia Pacific. We are working very closely with Vietnam and other regional partners in order to complete the TPP negotiations as quickly as possible. But to realize our potential as a partner and for Vietnam to realize its potential as a thriving economy – and this is something we talked about openly and frankly – Vietnam needs to show a continued progress on human rights and freedoms, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, and the freedom of association. I made this point clearly to Deputy Prime Minister Minh, as I have in all my previous discussions with Vietnamese officials.
Third, we are collaborating closely on the environment. Climate change is perhaps the single greatest threat facing most nations on the planet today. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the same waters in the Mekong Delta that I patrolled 45 years ago, and I saw firsthand the ways in which the United States and Vietnam are now working hand in hand to pursue development in a way that is sustainable for the environment, for local economies, and most importantly, sustainable for the climate.
And finally, we are working to strengthen regional security. We are expanding our collaboration on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts as well as on search-and-rescue capabilities. We’re also working more closely than ever on peacekeeping efforts. Next year, Vietnam, for the first time, will participate in the United Nations global peacekeeping operations.
No region can be secure in the absence of effective law enforcement in territorial waters. And because of that, today I am also pleased to announce $32.5 million in new U.S. assistance for maritime law enforcement in Southeast Asian states. This assistance will include, among other things, training and new fast-patrol vessels for coast guards. Building on existing efforts like the Gulf of Thailand initiative, this assistance will foster greater regional cooperation on maritime issues and ultimately provide the ability of Southeast Asian nations to carry out humanitarian activities and to police and monitor their waters more effectively.
In particular, peace and stability in the South China Sea is a top priority for us and for countries in the region. We are very concerned by and strongly opposed to coercive and aggressive tactics to advance territorial claims. Claimants have a responsibility to clarify their claims and to align their claims with international law and to pursue those claims within international peaceful institutions. Those countries can engage in arbitration and other means of negotiating disputes peacefully. We support ASEAN’s efforts with China to move quickly to conclude a code of conduct. And while a code of conduct is necessary for the long term, nations can also reduce the risk of miscommunication and miscalculation by taking steps today to put crisis prevention arrangements in place. That is an easy way to try and reduce tensions and try to reduce the potential for conflict.
Nowhere is that kind of effort more necessary today than it is in the East China Sea. President Obama and I are obviously very concerned about recent actions that have increased tensions between China and Japan, and we call for intensified negotiations and diplomatic initiatives.
Lastly, in discussing territorial disputes, I raised our deep concerns about China’s announcement of an East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone. This move clearly increases the risk of a dangerous miscalculation or an accident, and it could escalate tensions even further. I told the deputy prime minister that the United States does not recognize that zone and does not accept it. China’s announcement will not change how the United States conducts military operations in the region.
This is a concern about which we have been very, very candid, and we’ve been very direct with the Chinese. The zone should not be implemented, and China should refrain from taking similar unilateral actions elsewhere in the region, and particularly over the South China Sea.
In the months and years ahead, I am really confident that this relationship is going to grow stronger, that we are going to make progress. Today, Vietnam is a country that is committed to a different future, to a better future. And despite the difficult history that our nations have shared, I have always been impressed in the many, many visits that I have made here, from working on POW/MIA to working on lifting the embargo to working on normalization, and now working on trying to truly give full definition, full blossom if you will, to the peaceful possibilities between our countries. As we begin to approach the 20th anniversary of normalized relations, we know that a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that respects the rule of law and human rights will be a critical partner for the United States on many regional and global challenges that we face together.
So thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for welcoming me and my delegation here. I am grateful for our discussions thus far. We’ll have more time to talk over dinner tonight, and I look forward to my meeting with the prime minister and the chairman. Thank you.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: (Via interpreter) Thank you, Secretary John Kerry. Now I’d like to give some time for questions from correspondents. Please, from Vietnam News Agency.
QUESTION: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible) from Vietnam News Agency. I’d like to have a question for both foreign ministers. Would you give your view about the prospects of cooperation between Vietnam and the U.S. in economic trade and investment in the future?
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: (Via interpreter) I’d like to address the question from Vietnam News Agency. In terms of economic trade and investment, this is one of the priorities in bilateral relationship between Vietnam and the U.S. (Inaudible) bilateral trade (inaudible) it has (inaudible) bilateral relations (inaudible) any country (inaudible) the U.S., it’s the seventh-largest investor to Vietnam. And we have great potential for economic trade and investment cooperation, during the talks we have exchanged on this issue. And we have (inaudible) promote specific measures to further enhance cooperation (inaudible) in the future. Because we have great potential (inaudible) in this area.
SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Minister. As I mentioned, the trade between the United States and Vietnam since 1995 has increased 50 times and it is growing on a constant basis. And we believe that if we can quickly come to agreement on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the TPP trade agreement, that will create a trade alliance where you have almost 40 percent of the GDP of the world combined in this region, which is a very, very powerful trading entity. And if you raise the standards with respect to trade – the transparency, accountability, the labor standards and so forth – what you wind up doing is bringing everybody else along. They have to raise their standards in order to be able to partake in that, but also to be able to compete effectively.
So we think that this trade agreement is really one of the most significant steps that both of our nations can take to create jobs at home. Jobs will be created in America, jobs will be created in Vietnam, and we will both do better as a result. Just earlier this month, our U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Froman, and the team from his shop met with representatives from the 11 TPP partner countries. And we’re confident that that meeting is building momentum, that the work can move ahead quickly, that the negotiators will keep working hard. And the ministers plan to meet again in early January. So we’re very, very hopeful that achieving an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement is really critical for creating jobs and promoting growth.
Now, one thing I did raise with the minister is that we believe – we happen to believe that Vietnam will be even more energized economically, more competitive, and more powerful if it begins to transition some of its state-owned enterprises into private sector and begin to compete in the private sector in a way that most other countries are embracing. We think that’ll make a difference, but obviously, Vietnam needs to make its own decision about its schedule or its intentions. But we believe the TPP can define a very strong economic growth rate for this region and we really hope countries will rapidly move to close the agreement and to implement it.
MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)
QUESTION: Hello, Lesley Wroughton from Reuters. Mr. Secretary, how does your announcement today on maritime security – how does your announcement today on increased assistance for maritime security fit into these increased tensions with China? If anything, those tensions seem to have escalated not only in the East China Sea but also in the South China Sea.
And to the deputy prime minister, how – do you at all feel threatened by China, and how will this assistance help you deal with that threat?
Another one for Mr. Secretary on TPP: When you departed Washington, 47 lawmakers sent you a letter to say – to ask you to tie the TPP talks with Vietnam in with progress on human rights. Did you get any assurances today of any improvements coming up in that record, in the human rights record?
SECRETARY KERRY: With respect to the maritime announcement that we’ve made today, quite simply and directly let me tell you that this maritime announcement has nothing to do with any recent announcements by any other country or any of the tensions in the region. It is simply not a response to those recent announcements. This is part of a gradual and deliberate expansion that has been planned for some period of time which we have been working on. It expands on existing agreements and programs that we have now and it builds on a commitment to strengthen maritime capacity within ASEAN and within this region. So this is really an ongoing policy and not some kind of quickly conceived reaction to any events in the region.
With respect to the letter, I am very cognizant of the issue. As I said in my opening comments, we discussed it. I raised the issue with the foreign minister. There is some progress that is being made, and we have encouraged more progress to be made. There are increased number of church registrations. There have been increases within the new constitutional process of some additional rights. There are some things that we would have liked to have seen embraced that weren’t, and we’ve raised those. But this is an ongoing conversation, absolutely. I also raised individual cases of individual people and situations, and we had a very direct and healthy exchange about this. And I’ll let the foreign minister speak for himself about it, as he no doubt will.
But our need is to see progress on that, and I made it clear that TPP, the 123 agreement, the congressional readiness to move forward on any number of initiatives will be, obviously, affected by the degree of progress that is perceived.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER MINH: (Via interpreter) (Inaudible.) We have comprehensive, as the Secretary mentioned, (inaudible) relations, and there has been recent (inaudible). We have differences at sea. We also have agreements on six guiding principles on resolving issues at sea, including (inaudible) the United Nations welcomes the (inaudible) in ASEAN countries who are also implementing the DOC and well on the way to formulate DOC. And these are the kind of measures that are going to maintain peace, stability, maritime security, and safety. Thank you.
MODERATOR: (In Vietnamese.)
U.S. Department of State Photo
Secretary Kerry Receives a Surprise Birthday Cake in Vietnam