Written by Amruta Karambelkar / Eurasia Review: The US and Vietnam are the strangest bedfellows in the Asia Pacific. US President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam received wide attention, particularly because of the lifting of the embargo on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam. The ban was eventually expected to ease but it seems to have happened much sooner. This appears to be one of the significant measures undertaken within the so-called US ‘rebalance’. Both the presidents have stated – Obama more clearly – that the elevated bilateral ties are not aimed against Beijing. At the same time, however, both have also expressed concern regarding developments in the South China Sea and freedom of navigation. The US ‘rebalancing’ is tangible through this visit, along with other recent US visits and initiatives in the region.
The US and Vietnam have been gradually striving to normalise their relationship. The process started after the end of the Cold War and the landmark visit to Vietnam in 2000 by then President Bill Clinton with the aim of reconciliation. Just like Clinton’s, Obama’s Vietnam trip has happened towards the end of his presidency. Sixteen years since Clinton’s historic visit, a lot has changed between the former enemies. Most of the present Vietnamese population was born after the war, and the negative psychological cloud of the war has passed. The enthusiastic welcome that Obama received from the civilian community is an indicator of the changing times.