US-VN relations very good for both countries, says senator

(VNA) The US-Vietnam relations in the past more than 15 years has been a long and complicated road but the last ten years has been very good for both countries, said Senator Jim Webb, Chairman of the East Asia and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

In an interview granted to Vietnam News Agency-Washington D.C. based reporter on the 15th anniversary of the Vietnam-US diplomatic relations, Senator Webb said: " Vietnam is playing a very strong role not only in ASEAN but also in East and Southeast Asia right now."

Asked to say about the US Senate’s assessment on the role of Vietnam in US policy towards Asia in general and ASEAN in particular, the Senator said:

"My concern for many years has been that the United States is a valuable balancing force in East Asia and in Southeast Asia and I continue to try to reinforce that with other members of the Senate. We have so many different issues with respect to foreign policy so that it is difficult to get people to focus on Southeast Asia at times. We have had Iraq , Afghanistan when people think of East Asia usually here in the Senate they immediately start thinking about China . I remind my colleagues here very strongly about the importance of Southeast Asia, of ASEAN, there are 650 million people in the ASEAN nations and about the very important role that the relationship we have in East Asia for the good of the United States and for the good of the region with the United States being involved."

According to the US Senator, the balance of Vietnam foreign policy of the US with respect to number of countries has been very valuable to strengthening of the relationship between the US and Vietnam , has been very important to the stability in Southeast Asia and also in the East Sea area. He stressed: "It has been important for the United States and Vietnam to work together."

Regarding the development of Vietnam in recent years and the Vietnamese people, Senator Webb said:

"I have a very longstanding admiration for the Vietnamese culture and the Vietnamese people hard work and respect for education, strength of family, strength of extended family, willingness to feel strongly about 'Dung cam' (bravery). I believe that with respect to the United States , that Vietnamese as in your government, or people who did not know about Americans has come to appreciate the sincerity of American people of what we bring to Vietnam .

The major changes that I see from the mid 1990s, 1994, 1995, 1996 I was bringing American companies into Vietnam . The biggest changes that I see from then I think that the Vietnamese have learnt more about business, about market-oriented economy and your government has made easier for companies to do business in Vietnam than before, and that is very healthy signs. I think that the openness of Vietnamese society has been improved great deal: the use of internet, the business relationship, travels in and out have all been very positive."

The Senator said he has worked "very hard" in a very long time for strengthening the US-Vietnam relations as well as for promoting understanding between the Vietnamese in the United States and in Vietnam . He added:

"My wife is Vietnamese. Her family is Catholics, they came from the North into Vung Tau in 1954 and they left in 1975. The community feels very strongly about religious freedom. I believe that Vietnamese government has opened up much more than in the early 1990s. I see over the last year, the Vietnamese government having made special gesture to the Vatican . I think those kinds of signals are important; but the ability to worship openly is very important to Americans and to Vietnamese Americans."

On how should the US and Vietnam do to better promote bilateral relations, Senator Webb said:

"We are trying to move forwards to work out differences, as I said it is very difficult road but I think that every year, particularly over the past seven or eight years our countries have grown closer as they should. I think we are doing a very good job, keeping the dialogue open, working to understand our two countries and our two systems of the governments. The major recommendations that I have are to embrace and to reach out Vietnamese community in the United States . There are about two millions and that bridge is the most important bridge for the full harmony between the two countries."

Senator Webb stressed that: " Vietnam and the United States are natural friends. The Vietnamese are an industrious culture, they are warm to the people from outsides, they have strategic reasons for the United States , it is important. I believe the presence of the United States is important economically but also East Asia needs the balancing force, too many wars happen in the past because of the confrontation among the big powers. The United States is good for balance of East Asia and we are natural friends, we just need to work to iron out all of the differences."