HANOI, Jun 5, 2011. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Vietnam this week trying to build closer ties with the government in hopes of forging a stronger military partnership, a key element in the United States’ new Asia strategy.
At a news conference Monday with Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh, Mr. Panetta said he hopes to strengthen the U.S. defense relationship with Vietnam and help the country’s military to develop.
Mr. Panetta said he and Gen. Quang Thanh discussed additional high-level dialogues and increased visits to Vietnam by U.S. Navy ships, and that the U.S. wants to help strengthen Vietnam and other nations, which he said would help to increase regional stability.
“The goal of the United States is to advance exactly what the general refers to: advance the independence and sovereignty of all nations in the region,” Mr. Panetta said.
For his part, Gen. Quang Thanh said he wants the U.S. to lift its ban on selling Vietnam lethal weapons. Congress currently allows some nonlethal military equipment to be sold to Hanoi.
Selling a wider range of weapons, Gen. Quang Thanh said, would “help fully normalize relations.”