HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Sen. John McCain says it’s time for the United States to ease restrictions on arms sales to Vietnam, citing progress the communist country has made on human rights.

McCain told reporters in Hanoi on Friday that he hopes the easing could begin as early as next month. The sales would be limited to arms with defensive capabilities.

The Republican and Vietnam War veteran said the easing of arms sales restrictions has nothing to do with recent Chinese placement of an oil rig in a disputed part of the South China Sea.

Closer military ties between Vietnam and the United States could anger China, which has been more assertive on its territorial claims in the South China Sea.