Ambassador David B. Shear’s webchat with Vietnam Express

Theo nguồn tin trên trang mạng của U.S. Embassy at Hanoi

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Sir, I would like to thank you and the Vietnamese people also would like to thank you for your great contributions to the relations between the two countries.

I would like to ask you a question. Do you think that Vietnam and the U.S. can upgrade the current relationship from comprehensive partnership to strategic partnership? And when?

Ambassador Shear: Thank you very much.

We’re always ready to consider upgrading the relationship with Vietnam. We think that what’s really important is that we have a partnership and the partnership that we established when President Sang visited Washington last July is a very strong one, and we look forward to working with the Vietnamese government and the Vietnamese people to strengthen the comprehensive partnership established by President Sang and President Obama last year.

We can be patient. We are working very hard to implement the comprehensive partnership. And again, what’s important is that Vietnam and the U.S. have a partnership, and I hope that in the next couple of years we’ll be able to upgrade that partnership to a strategic partnership, but as long as we have a partnership we’ll be in good shape.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. The second question. In order to expand the relations between and the cooperation between Vietnam and the U.S., what concession and what consensus will the two countries need to make in order to lessen the current limitations and shortcomings between the two countries at the moment?

Ambassador Shear: Well, I don’t think it’s a question of either side making concessions in order to improve the relationship. The United States and Vietnam have very strong common interests, and what’s really important is that we work together to identify those common interests and then implement plans and approaches to help us pursue those common interests together.

And I think one way for us to start to continue doing that is for us to increase the exchange of senior level officials. For example, we’d like to see Secretary General of the Communist Party Trong visit the United States next year. We’d like to see President Obama visit Vietnam before he finishes his term. So there’s a lot we can do to pursue the common interests that we both share in order to achieve mutual benefits in this, further mutual benefits in this relationship.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Sir, what is your assessment about the measures taken by Vietnam in order to deal with actions by China in the East Sea or South China Sea recently?

Ambassador Shear: The United States would like to see territorial conflicts in the South China Sea resolved peacefully and diplomatically on the basis of international law.

We support peaceful efforts to resolve these conflicts, including international arbitration, including negotiation among the parties. We would like to see the implementation of a freeze [inaudible] leading ultimately, we hope, to a code of conduct in the South China Sea on the basis of the 2002 Declaration of Conduct.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. If China takes military actions against the countries involved, the countries that have claims about territories in the South China Sea, what measures will the U.S. take?

Ambassador Shear: Well, that’s a very hypothetical question and I think I’m reluctant to answer questions that are that hypothetical.

Let me just say that we would view the use of force by any party in the South China Sea with great concern because we wish to see these disputes resolved peacefully on the basis of a diplomatic approach in accordance with international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. When you presented your credentials to our president, President Sang, you said that President Sang spoke good English and you praised him for that, and you also made a promise that you would learn Vietnamese well enough so that you could converse in Vietnamese at the end of your term. So what is the progress?

Ambassador Shear: I failed the test. [Laughter]. I tried while I was here to learn better Vietnamese, but I’ve grown old and it’s hard for me to remember a lot. So I tried, but I’m afraid I may not have satisfied President Sang. He’s a stern teacher. The President’s English is still better than my Vietnamese.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. If you become Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asia, what will you do for peace and stability in this region? And what will you help Vietnam if China have provocative actions against Vietnam?

Ambassador Shear: Well the United States and China have a cooperative relationship across the board as well as in defense relations, and one of the things I will try to do is lower tensions by improving defense relations between China and the U.S.. But of course implementing the defense-related areas in the comprehensive partnership with Vietnam will also be very very important. So I look forward to returning to Vietnam in my new capacity as Assistant Secretary of Defense.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. I learned that in July the U.S. mission had to stop issuing visas because of a systematic error. My sister will come back to Vietnam during the Christmas time and she will need to apply for visa. So will the system error be corrected by that time? If not, how will she apply for visa?

Ambassador Shear: We understand the importance of visa issuance in Vietnam and the U.S. embassy in Hanoi and the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City work very hard to ensure that we consider visa applications from the Vietnamese people in the most efficient and the fastest possible way.

We experienced temporary technical difficulties in our visa issuance system through last week, but I’ve been assured by Washington that that problem has been resolved and we are accepting visa applications normally now.

That problem was a global problem. It was not just a problem related to visa issuance in Vietnam.

So your sister should feel free to come to the embassy or the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and apply for a visa at her convenience.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. The next question, I know that in addition to immigration visas for relatives, for example, there are also other immigration visa programs like the EB5 program which is for people who invest in projects in the U.S.. So my question is, are those projects sponsored by the U.S. government? And will we have financial safety when we invest in those projects? And will there be a time limit for those projects?

Ambassador Shear: We issue a variety of immigrant visas including for investors in the United States. We believe that the United States is a very good place for people from Vietnam to invest and we hope that, we welcome investment from Vietnam and we hope that more Vietnamese will consider the United States as a safe place in which to invest and to live.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. What is your assessment about the investment between Vietnam and the U.S., and what is your forecast about U.S. investment in Vietnam and vice versa?

Ambassador Shear: I have encouraged investment both ways since I arrived in Vietnam as ambassador. Of course Americans are very interested in the Vietnamese market, both in terms of selling U.S. exports to Vietnam and in terms of as a possible destination for U.S. investment.

I think the Vietnamese government has done well in its effort to stabilize macroeconomic conditions in Vietnam. We’re looking at good growth prospects this year as well as low inflation prospects. The exchange rate is stable. And I think American investors are taking note of this and interest in the United States in investing in Vietnam has increased lately.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. You have been here for three years and in review can you please say three things? One is the thing that you are most pleased about. The second thing is, what is the thing that you most regret about. And the last thing is, what is the thing that you want to forget the most?

Ambassador Shear: [Laughter]. That’s a good question.

There are several things with which I’m most pleased and I’ll start with those.

First was the establishment of the comprehensive partnership as a result of President Sang’s visit to the U.S. last year. And under the comprehensive partnership we’ve achieved a number of things including the agreement on a civil nuclear cooperation agreement which will help us help Vietnam build nuclear power plants here.

A second thing that has pleased me greatly is the start of our effort to remediate Agent Orange contamination at Da Nang Airport. We started this project in April. We started actually remediating contaminated earth in April, and I’m happy to say that’s proceeding successfully and we look forward to finishing the project in 2016.

A third project that has been very successful is our effort to expand the Fulbright Economic Training Program in Ho Chi Minh City, and we hope that soon we’ll be able to expand that and establish a Fulbright University on the basis of that project.

The thing I most regret was that I never learned to like eating durian.

What would I like to forget the most? That’s a tough one. I think I’ll take that home with me and get back to you. [Laughter].

Question: [Through Interpreter]. The U.S. has always stated that it has interests in the South China Sea or the East Sea as it’s called by Vietnam. So what will the U.S. do to ensure maritime freedom of navigation and freedom of aviation in this area in the context that China may announce an ADIZ soon in this area?

Ambassador Shear: Well, as then Secretary of State Clinton remarked during her July 2010 visit to Hanoi, preserving freedom of navigation in the South China Sea is an important strategic interest of the United States and we in pursuit of that goal, we have worked very closely with countries in the region to help them address territorial disputes diplomatically and in a peaceful fashion. We of course are strong partners in the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Regional Forum and in the APEC Summit and we discuss these issues at every opportunity, both in those forums and in other multilateral forums as well as bilaterally with countries in the region.

I think a strong indication of the interest the United States takes in this region is the increased frequency of senior level American visits both to Vietnam and to the region. President Obama had a very productive visit to the Philippines and Malaysia last year, and just in the past year alone we’ve had many visitors to Vietnam at the cabinet level, including Secretary of the Treasury Lew, U.S. Trade Representative Froman, U.S. Commerce Secretary Pritzker, and last December we had a very successful visit by Secretary of State Kerry.

There’s also great interest in the region and in Vietnam from the U.S. Congress, and just this year we’ve had six visits by senators as well as maybe ten congressmen visiting Vietnam. Today, this evening I’m welcoming Senators McCain and Whitehouse to Vietnam.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Why has President Obama not visited Vietnam yet, although the two sides always say the relations are fine?

And the second question is, can the U.S. have great relations with Vietnam like it has with Japan without caring about political regime?

Ambassador Shear: I think President Obama would like to visit Vietnam. When President Sang met with President Obama in the Oval Office in Washington, in the White House last year in July President Obama told President Sang that he hoped he could visit Vietnam before his term as President ends. We’d very much like to see that happen.

With regard to the second question on Japan, I think Japan, the United States and Vietnam all have very strong common interests in the region, and we hope that as we strengthen our relationship with Japan that we can also strengthen our relationship with Vietnam, and all three countries can work together to strengthen peace and stability in the region.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. What is your assessment about the importance of Vietnam with regard to its strategic position in Southeast Asia and in Asia? And as China announced its nine-dash line in the South China Sea, how will that statement affect the U.S. interests in this region?

Ambassador Shear: Well, as I’ve said before, I think nothing would be more conducive to regional peace and stability than good relations among the U.S., Vietnam and China.

And with regard to the territorial issues, I’ve said it before, but we would like China, Vietnam and all the other claimants to territory in the South China Sea to resolve their disputes peacefully. We would like them to clarify their claims in a way that’s consistent with international law.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. What is the purpose of the U.S. if it sells lethal weapons to Vietnam? And if Vietnam does not align with any major power like Russia or China or the U.S., what is the policy of the U.S. toward that policy of Vietnam?

Ambassador Shear: Well the United States wants a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam and things that contribute to a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam we generally support.

Currently we have a ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam. People in Washington, recent senators visiting Vietnam have stated that they support lifting the ban. I think we’re looking at it and we will stay in touch with our Vietnamese counterparts on that subject.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Can I ask you a favor? I would like you to help to find the American father of my children. That American person was stationed in Ai Tu Base in Quang Tri Province. Now the relations between the two countries are very good, but because I have certain limitations in my family we cannot have the condition to go and find that American person. So can you do this for us as a humanitarian gesture?

Ambassador Shear: If you’re in Quang Tri Province, then you are in the district covered by our Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City. I would urge you to contact the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City to see what might be possible in your case.

You can contact the Consulate General via our web site, and I will alert them to the possibility that you may be in touch.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. I know that Senator McCain is coming to Vietnam, so can you let us know some more information about his visit? For example time and what he plans to do?

Ambassador Shear: Well, he’ll be in Vietnam for a couple of days, and among other things he’ll be meeting with Vietnam’s highest leaders. I can’t speak for Senator McCain, but it’s clear that he takes a very strong interest in U.S.-Vietnam relations and we’re grateful for his strong support.

Question: So what is the purpose of the trip?

Ambassador Shear: I think the senator, who is traveling with another senator named Whitehouse, likes to visit Vietnam periodically to update himself on recent developments in U.S.-Vietnam relations so that he can make better decisions as a senator when he’s back in Washington.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Vietnam and the U.S. normalized relations in 1995, so it has been 19 years. But trade relations between the two countries have been limited. So what are the barriers to the two-way trade relations?

Ambassador Shear: The United States and Vietnam are partners in talks to establish a TransPacific Partnership free trade area. We have ten other partners in these talks including Canada, Japan, Australia, Singapore and several other countries. This agreement is designed to reduce barriers to trade and investment, and I think we’re very close to achieving agreement. We hope to conclude negotiations very soon. And once that agreement goes into effect I think bilateral trade between the United States and Vietnam will increase greatly.

We also believe the TPP will attract greater investment to Vietnam, not just from the United States but from other TPP partners as well.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. The U.S. has huge economic interests in China and much more than it has in Vietnam or other Southeast Asian countries, so does this fact hinder U.S. efforts to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea?

Ambassador Shear: I don’t think so at all. I think that strong economic relations among all Asia Pacific countries is in all of our interests and is in all of our mutual benefit. It’s my hope that stronger economic relations among us all will reduce tension in the region rather than increasing tension.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. What is your assessment about the living environment in Vietnam? And do you like to live in Vietnam? If not, then what should be improved? And we expect an honest answer from you.

Ambassador Shear: I have enjoyed living in Vietnam for these three years very much, and I hope to come back and explore places that I missed in these three years. The Vietnamese people are very friendly and welcoming, the food is very good, and the scenery is beautiful. What more could you ask?

With regard to some of the discomforts, I think as we saw during Secretary Kerry’s visit last December, that climate change and environment issues are very important. We’re working closely with our Vietnamese counterparts to address issues related to climate change as well as the environment and I hope that this can lead to improvements in Vietnam’s ability to adjust to climate change as well as improvements in Vietnam’s air and water qualities.

One thing that I take great pride in is the establishment this past April of the Ha Long Bay Alliance. The Ha Long Bay Alliance is a public/private partnership among the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Vietnamese central government, the Quang Ninh provincial government and private sector firms, both Vietnamese and foreign, devoted to environmental sustainability of the Ha Long Bay which is a fantastically beautiful resource and a UN Heritage site.

Question: [Moderator] I have just one additional question for you. So do you think you are [inaudible] in [inaudible]? How many provinces have you visited? And which place you want to visit when you get back [inaudible]?

Ambassador Shear: I’ve visited over 30 provinces and cities in Vietnam. I have a lot more to visit. Some of the places I’d like to visit in the north are along the border, like Lang Son and Cao Bang. In central Vietnam I’d like to visit the central highlands in the future, including Buon ma Thout and Pleiku and Kon Tum. And in the south, I’ve been to several provinces on the Mekong Delta but I’d like to visit Kien Giang Province, Tay Ninh Province, as well as Phu Quoc Island. So I have a lot of homework to do. [Laughter].

Question: [Through Interpreter]. I would like to visit the U.S. and also visit our relatives in the U.S., but the visa to visit relatives is very difficult to obtain. So we would like the U.S. to loosen certain conditions to issue visas. So what can you say about this?

Ambassador Shear: Well, the standards on which we base decisions on visas are based in U.S. law, so it’s difficult for us to loosen the standards. But I would encourage anybody who wants to visit the United States temporarily to apply for a visa either at our embassy in Hanoi or at our consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City. And to learn how to apply for a visa and what the standards are, you should visit either the web site of the embassy or the web site of our consulate general in Ho Chi Minh City.

We of course welcome all visa applicants. We especially welcome student visa applicants. As everyone may have heard, there are now over 16,000 Vietnamese students at U.S. colleges and universities. There is a U.S. university or college for every level of academic achievement and for every level of financial ability. We have tremendous diversity in our higher education institutions as well as the best quality in the world, and we welcome Vietnamese students. They’re part of what makes our university system so good.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. What is your prediction regarding what next act China might take after it placed an oil rig in the Paracels Archipelago?

Ambassador Shear: We hope that all claimants to territory in the South China Sea do whatever they can to reduce tensions. To clarify their claims in the South China Sea on the basis of international law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and address these issues in a peaceful and diplomatic way.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. I am very glad that you have this webchat, and this is an indication that the relations between Vietnam and the U.S. are fine. And it is also in line with what Vietnamese people want. We have full confidence in our leaders.

Separately, I admire the Clintons very much, both President Clinton and his wife, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, for their virtue and for what they have done. And I very much want to have a chance to meet with them, so can you please send this message to them?

Ambassador Shear: I certainly will.

President Clinton has visited Vietnam many times. He was here most recently about three weeks ago. I met him while he was here and he retains great interest in U.S.-Vietnam relations.

Mrs. Clinton has also visited Vietnam many times, both with President Clinton and on her own as Secretary of State. She retains a very strong interest in U.S.-Vietnam relations as well.

Question: [Through Interpreter]. Twenty years are a great path in history, and you are part of it, you have contributed to that. So what feeling do you have?

Ambassador Shear: Well I’m looking forward to the 20th anniversary of the normalization of relations next year, and I will be watching very closely how we celebrate it and I hope to participate myself. We have seen a great expansion in U.S.-Vietnam relations across the board in the past 20 years. We have an opportunity to further expand the relationship under the comprehensive partnership and in my new position I hope to continue working on that as well.

I feel like I’ve had a very rewarding assignment here and I thank the Vietnamese people for their warmth and their cooperation and I look forward to coming back again soon.

Thank you very much.

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