Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Vietnam–US relations balancing ideology and geopolitics

Author: Cuong T. Nguyen, University of Chicago
On 7 July 2015, Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong met US President Barack Obama at the Oval Office, marking a historic milestone in advancing US–Vietnam relations. But the trip was largely symbolic as Trong returned to Hanoi with only modest progress on comprehensive US–Vietnam relations. So, when eloquent rhetoric collides with hard logistics, what was the main roadblock in furthering US–Vietnam relations?
Many argue that ideology remains a persistent impediment to the advancement of a US–Vietnam alliance. Beyond differences in political systems, the legacy of the Vietnam War is another element of this ideological divide.
One of the unresolved issues of the Vietnam War is the damage that Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance (UXO, that is explosive weapons such as bombs and landmines which have not exploded) have inflicted upon Vietnam’s people and environment. It is estimated that over 3 million Vietnamese victims of the dioxins in Agent Orange suffer severe health problems. An estimated 800,000 tons of UXO affects 20 per cent of the country’s land area and affect 5 per cent of its arable land. With 300,000 Vietnamese soldiers missing in action, numerous divided families still carry horrid memories of the war.

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