Clin­ton crit­i­cizes Viet­nam on hu­man rights

on first day of visit, U.s. of­fi­cial urges pur­suit of re­forms

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Mark Landler

HANOI, Viet­nam — Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton chided Viet­nam on Thurs­day for in­tol­er­ance of dis­sent and in­fringe­ment of In­ter­net free­dom, even as she cel­e­brated its 15 years of nor­mal­ized re­la­tions with the United States.

Clin­ton said she raised the is­sues of jailed democ­racy ac­tivists, attacks on re­li­gious groups and curbs on so­cial­net­work­ing web­sites dur­ing a meet­ing with Viet­nam’s deputy prime min­is­ter, Pham Gia Khiem.

The United States will prod Viet­nam’s govern­ment “to pur­sue re­forms and pro­tect ba­sic rights and free­doms,” she said at a news con­fer­ence, as Khiem stood ex­pres­sion­less be­side her.

“Viet­nam, with its ex­tra­or­di­nary, dy­namic pop­u­la­tion, is on the path to be­com­ing a great nation, with an un­lim­ited po­ten­tial,” she said. “That is among the rea­sons we expressed con­cern.”

Khiem replied that hu­man rights poli­cies were rooted in unique cul­tural and his­tor­i­cal cir­cum­stances. He cited what he said was Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ob­ser­va­tion that coun­tries should be al­lowed to choose their own paths and that hu­man rights shouldn’t be im­posed from out­side.

The tim­ing of Clin­ton’s re­marks, at the start of a two-day stop that in­cludes an Asian re­gional se­cu­rity meet­ing, sug­gested that she wanted to make her point and move on.

She also em­pha­sized Thurs­day that the United States would in­crease co­op­er­a­tion on trade and in­vest­ment, and would do more to help peo­ple suf­fer­ing lin­ger­ing ef­fects from Agent Orange, a chem­i­cal spray the U.S. mil­i­tary used as a de­fo­liant dur­ing the Viet­nam War.

Still, Clin­ton’s crit­i­cism of­fered a vivid con­trast to her vis­its to China, where she has avoided pub­licly rais­ing hu­man rights is­sues with Chi­nese of­fi­cials. It also came on the same day that De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert Gates was an­nounc­ing in Jakarta that the United States would re­sume mil­i­tary con­tacts with In­done­sia’s spe­cial forces, an elite mil­i­tary unit long crit­i­cized for abuses, ar­gu­ing that it had re­formed.

These di­ver­gent moves re­flect the un­even land­scape the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­fronts in the re­gion, in­clud­ing not only ris­ing China and re­cal­ci­trant North Korea but also a mil­i­tary dic­ta­tor­ship in Myan­mar and a Viet­namese govern­ment that is show­ing signs of re­treat­ing from its re­formist path.

Al­though hu­man rights con­di­tions are in­dis­putably bet­ter in Viet­nam now than at the end of the war, an­a­lysts say there has been back­slid­ing in re­cent years. In Jan­uary, the govern­ment con­victed three prom­i­nent democ­racy ac­tivists. Last week, 19 mem­bers of Congress sent Clin­ton a let­ter, urg­ing her to press Viet­nam about these cases and cen­sor­ship of web­sites such as Face­book.

Clin­ton also spoke of how the United States and Viet­nam had over­come the bit­ter­ness of war, and then the “pro­found dif­fer­ences” that di­vide a com­mu­nist state from a democ­racy.

“The United States will con­tinue to urge Viet­nam to strengthen its com­mit­ment to hu­man rights and give its peo­ple a greater say over the di­rec­tion of their lives,” she said. “But our re­la­tion­ship is not fixed upon our dif­fer­ences. We have learned to see each other not as for­mer en­e­mies but as friends.”

Paul J. Richards

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton is greeted Thurs­day as she ar­rives at Hanoi Noi Bai In­ter­na­tional Air­port in Viet­nam.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.