US-Vietnam: The logic behind weapons for reform
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US-Vietnam: The logic behind weapons for reform

Voices in Washington want to lift the weapons ban to Vietnam. Better think that through.

Momentum is growing in Washington, D.C., to remove the lethal weapons ban on Vietnam, a move that would undoubtedly agitate China.

It is a gambit that would impel Beijing to view the United States in much the same way the US viewed the Soviet Union’s military assistance to Cuba during the Cold War. However, it is not necessarily the reaction of China that is the reason for the ban still in place.

Lifting the weapons ban could be seen as the next logical step in advancing US-Vietnam relations after the signing of a comprehensive partnership last year. Certainly, with the US in the midst of its strategic rebalance to Asia-Pacific, improving and strengthening relations with regional countries appears to be a necessary step.

At the congressional level, support for lifting the ban reaches across the aisle. Reps. Randy Forbes (Republican), Chairman of the House Armed Services’ Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, and Colleen Hanabusa (Democrat), member of the House Armed Services Committee,expressed joint interest in the sale of defense equipment to Vietnam. Ted Osius, the US nominee for ambassador to Vietnam, also lent support to the idea of relaxing the weapons ban during his Senate nomination hearing.

Beyond Capitol Hill, lifting the weapons ban has received support from the DC-based foreign policy think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). In a recently published report titled “Recent Trends in the South China Sea and US Policy,” CSIS recommended that the US develop a “roadmap to allow a step-by-step relaxation of the restrictions.”

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