Press Conference by Deputy Secretary Negroponte in Hanoi, Vietnam
John D. Negroponte, Deputy Secretary of State
September 12, 2008
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: [In Vietnamese. Laughter and clapping].
I want to thank you for joining me today as part of my trip visiting
both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Reflective of the close partnership
between the United States and Vietnam I have a full schedule of
meetings covering a broad range of issues.
In Hanoi I had the privilege of meeting with the Prime Minister, the
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Khiem, Deputy Prime Minister
and Education Minister Nhan and many others. During these meetings we
focused on areas in which we can strengthen our relationship. The
United States aims to deepen our economic and commercial ties, to
expand our diplomatic cooperation, encourage reform, and broaden our
cooperation to enhance regional peace and security. Our Joint Advisory
Committee on Agent Orange and Dioxin is also meeting here in Hanoi this
week. Its work is another example of successful cooperation that is
producing positive results.
Education is a high priority for us. In the coming weeks members of
the Education Task Force will meet to discuss how we might strengthen
our work together in this area. This task force will examine ways in
which we can increase the number of Vietnamese students in the United
States and Americans studying in Vietnam and what can be done to
increase exchanges between United States and Vietnamese universities.
We also want to link American companies and Vietnamese universities to
help graduates acquire the skills that they need to find good jobs in
the new and growing Vietnamese economy.
In Ho Chi Minh City, where I am going next, in ađition to meetings
with government officials I will meet with local business leaders to
learn first-hand about Vietnam’s economic growth. The United States is
one of Vietnam’s largest investors, but increased transparency,
dedication to tackling corruption and a commitment to combating
inflation and maintaining stability will facilitate even more
Throughout my trip I have underscored the importance the United
States places on a candid and productive human rights dialogue.
Enhancements in governance, the rule of law and the protection of human
rights will forge an even deeper United States-Vietnam relationship and
should contribute to Vietnam’s own goal of greater integration with the
In conclusion, I would like to say that my brief visit to Hanoi has
confirmed my optimism about the prospects for United States-Vietnam
relations in the years ahead.
Now Íd be pleased to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: Hi, Ím Ben Stocking from the Associated Press.
You mentioned the work of the Joint Committee looking into the Agent
Orange issue. Some Vietnamese have expressed a little bit of
disappointment about the amount of money that the ỤS. has devoted to
this issue. Theýre pleased that the Congress set aside $3 million, but
there seems to be agreement that the cost of cleaning up dioxin is
going to cost a lot more than that. So I guess my question is do you
think the United States should or might consider setting aside more
money for the cleanup of dioxin here?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: First, by way of a general response to
your question let me say that I think that while it is important that
we focus on the future of the relationship between our two countries,
and that is the area of activity that takes up most of our energies, we
also must deal with the legacy issues from the war. Those are issues Ím
pleased to say we are working on cooperatively with the government of
Vietnam, whether it has to do with Agent Orange or POWs and MIAs, or
with the removal of mines, for example, that were laid during the war.
I think we have a positive and a constructive dialogue and positive and
constructive activities in all of these areas.
You asked about the specific amounts of money and whether they are
adequate for this problem. Our approach has been, in our discussions
with the government of Vietnam, to first of all have important
exchanges between the experts on this subject, and that’s what’s been
happening this week here in Hanoi, so that there is an adequate
exchange of information.
There are remediation measures that are being taken, and I think the
focus there is to try and find the areas of priority. So, for example,
one of the priority areas is around Danang. There are several other
places that have also been identified for priority action.
In ađition to remediation measures I would also mention that we have
provided resources for treating disabled Vietnamese people regardless
of cause over a long period of time now. We have spent some tens of
millions of dollars to help assist disabled Vietnamese, regardless of
what it was that caused their disablement.
QUESTION: Ím from Peoplés Army Newspaper.
The Vietnamese and several ỤS. companies have cooperation contract
in the South China Sea we call the East Sea here. But there has been
abuse of the territorial sea water, often by China. So when such things
happen, what legal grounds does the ỤS. Department of State use to make
statements about those cases?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: My answer to that question would be as
follows. First of all, the question of maritime jurisdiction between
countries, especially when there are disagreements, is something that
ultimately must be settled by those countries themselves in accordance
with the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention.
We ourselves don’t take a position on the merits of these particular
disputes, but we do believe they should be dealt with peacefully and
without resort to any type of coercion. We do believe the companies
that you refer to, the American companies you refer to have the right
to engage in the activities in which they are engaged.
QUESTION: I am from Agence France Presse.
You talked about the human rights dialogue. Could you tell us, did
you raise any specific case on behalf of the ỤS., and if so, which ones?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: The answer to your question is, first
of all, yes, we did discuss human rights issues in several of my
conversations including, in particular, my meeting with the Foreign
Minister as well as with representatives of civic society with whom I
met yesterday evening. But I did not get into any particular specific
cases. As I said in my opening statement, this is an issue that we
believe is important. The degree that the human rights situation in
Vietnam is dealt with adequately and effectively, we think will be to
the benefit of Vietnam’s standing in the international community and it
will also, of course, in our view be to the benefit of the Vietnamese
QUESTION: Ím from Vietnam Television.
My question is, yesterday you had a meeting with Vice Prime Minister
Nguyen at the Ministry of Education and Training. What do you think
about education cooperation between Vietnam and the ỤS., and can you be
more specific on the educational cooperation between our two countries?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Yes, absolutely.
Give me one more week and I can interpret for you. [Laughter].
We had a very good meeting. This is one of the areas of cooperation
between the United States and Vietnam that I think is particularly
exciting. The Education Minister spoke about the desire of Vietnam to
graduate 20,000 more PhD students over the next 12 years -- 10,000 with
PhDs from abroad, from other countries, and 10,000 trained in Vietnam
itself. So one area that we talked about was ways in which we could
increase the number of Vietnamese students going to the United States
to help fulfill the goals of this program. That I think is something we
will want to pursue upon my return to the United States.
Another area that we spoke about were the plans of the Ministry to
have universities established here in Vietnam that use the curriculum
of foreign universities. He mentioned the example of a German
university that’s being established in Ho Chi Minh City at the moment.
He expressed a strong interest in United States universities engaging
in the same kind of cooperation with Vietnam.
One last area I might mention since you asked for specific examples,
was the desire on the part of the government, and Ím sure that others
share it, of trying to improve the quantity and the quality of English
language training in this country.
QUESTION: Ím from Prensa Latina.
Given the human rights situation and the importance of progress
here, what are the [inaudible] now [inaudible] at a time of war, and
Agent Orange and all those things. [Inaudible] nothing about Vietnam
[inaudible]. And now we are talking the same [inaudible].
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: Ím sure if you asked most Vietnamese
they would tell you the situation today is substantially changed and
substantially improved over what it was in the 1960s. Just to cite one
example, this is an economy here that has consistently grown at a rate
of seven or eight percent a year for a decade or so and is considered
one of the real miracles of economic development. It has lifted the
Vietnamese out of poverty, giving them more space and opportunity to
develop their personal lives. So that would be my first observation in
response to your question.
While personal opportunities for development and personal space have
increased significantly, there are still issues, as you mentioned and
as I have also mentioned, particularly in the area of political rights.
Our views on that subject are well known. It’s an area where we don’t
necessarily see matters eye to eye with Vietnamese authorities, but I
think we are appreciative of the fact that this is a subject that is on
the bilateral agenda between us. Wéve actually had a human rights
dialogue with our Assistant Secretary for Human Rights visiting here
recently to hold in-depth discussions with the Government of Vietnam.
So this will be, I expect, an issue that will continue to be one of
discussion between our two governments, but it will be in the context
of an expanding and improving and friendly relationship between our two
QUESTION: I would like to ask you what did you discuss with the Vietnamese government about corruption?
And the second question is, I like your Saigon accent -- [Laughter].
What feeling do you have when you return to Vietnam after 35 years?
DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE: On the first question, one of the
subjects that has been a constant issue of discussion between our
embassy and the government of Vietnam has been the rule of law,
questions related to corruption, and how strengthening the rule of law,
in our view, will enable the Vietnamese economy to prosper and develop
and the Vietnamese people to prosper and develop even more. So we think
it’s in the self interest of the government and people of Vietnam to
tackle the matter of corruption and improve the rule of law.
As for my Saigon accent, Ím very happy to be back after 35 years. I
sometimes ask myself why I took so long to come back. Ím very
optimistic about the future of our relationship. I certainly look
forward to visiting Ho Chi Minh City, which I will be doing after this
press conference. Wére leaving for Ho Chi Minh City and I will spend
about two days there, so that will be an opportunity for me to see how
much things have changed in Ho Chi Minh City.
But perhaps what fills me with the greatest optimism is the fact
that our two countries fought a bitter war. It was a bitter and
difficult war for both sides. And yet I find that on both sides there
seems to be a tremendous amount of goodwill, to want to develop the
relationship in a positive way in the future. I think that is almost a
universal feeling. That’s certainly the way I feel about the
So as I mentioned, we have to now go and catch an airplane. I thank
you very much for this opportunity to meet with you this morning. Thank
Released on September 12, 2008