Obama said on Thursday that he will discuss the issue with Vietnamese authorities when he visits the country next week, EFE news reported.
“We’ll discuss this at meetings of the president (in Vietnam), it’s something we’ve been evaluating as we prepare for the visit,” said Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Obama, in a press conference.
The US arms embargo on Vietnam has been in force since 1984 and although it was slightly relaxed in 2014, Obama is now considering lifting it completely or significantly expanding the range of armaments that can be sold to the country, amid rapprochement with Hanoi and concern over China’s military strength.
“We have not made a final decision on the matter,” said Rhodes, although he acknowledged that the White House has talked about the issue with several Congress members “in the past weeks”.
Obama will discuss the issue on May 23 during his meeting with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, who has been in office for less than two months; with the new Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and with the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong.
Rhodes said that in making the decision, the US will consider “how it is developing the relationship”, not only in terms of “security cooperation” but also in relation to the “(US) commitment to supporting human rights in Vietnam”.
The US has not sold weapons to Vietnam since the end of the long war in that country (1955-1975), although the formal ban was issued in 1984 by late US president Ronald Reagan.
The two countries restored diplomatic relations in 1995, and Obama has tried to apply the same philosophy that he has adopted with Cuba and Myanmar to Vietnam: to boost bilateral dialogue despite the concern about the human rights situation.