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Robert Zoellick Press Conference Hanoi, Vietnam

Press Conference

Robert Zoellick, Deputy Secretary

Hanoi, Vietnam
May 6, 2005

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, thank you all for coming. As I think many of you know, this visit is part of a larger trip that I'm making to Southeast Asia. Because as President Bush begins his second term in office, Secretary Rice and I wanted to visit the different regions to be able to consult and listen to our partners.

So in the past few days, I have had the chance to visit Thailand and the Philippines, and today Vietnam, and then tomorrow I will be in Indonesia, and Aceh, and then Malaysia, and Singapore. This is obviously an important year in US-Vietnam relations because it is the tenth anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties. I've had a chance to work with my Vietnamese colleagues over the past four years as the US Trade Representative. And I was pleased to be able to help pass the BasicTrade Agreement through our Congress, an agreement that was negotiated through our predecessor. And I was pleased I was able to get to know now Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan when he was the Trade Minister. So today I had a chance to meet Minister of Planning and Investment Phuc and the Deputy Prime Minister for a good lengthy meeting. And when I met the Deputy Prime Minister, I conveyed to him on behalf of the President the invitation for the Prime Minister to visit the United States on June 21. And then we had the chance to review issues in our bilateral regional and global relationships, and I think we both felt that we've established a strong foundation on which to build stronger bilateral ties but also broader relations.

There are of course challenges in US-Vietnam relationship because of historical legacies, but both countries are trying to address those while also looking to the future. So we spent time discussing Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization, the business and investment climate, the special HIV/AIDS program that the United States has with Vietnam. And I just came from visiting the Bach Mai Hospital where I had the chance to meet some of the medical personnel and some of the patients. And as you may know, this relates to a special program that the United States has with fifteen countries around the world, and Vietnam is the only one outside of Africa and the Caribbean.

I noted that I was very pleased to see that our Fulbright Program with Vietnam sends more graduate students from Vietnam to the United States than any other in the world. We talked about the importance of cooperating on the avian influenza issue, which is obviously both a health and a key economic issue here and elsewhere in the region. I was pleased that yesterday we were able to announce our agreement on religious freedom that builds on the actions that the Vietnamese government is taking. And we also discussed some other items that are important to build in our regional relationships the adoption issue, the work on the MIAs and human rights topics. We also discussed our growing security cooperation on counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, organized crime, and ship visits. We are pleased that Vietnam's Minister of Defense was able to visit Secretary Rumsfeld in Washington.

And all these connections show the growing interest that both countries have in the regional relationships. It is my sense that Vietnam will have a growing influence in ASEAN in the upcoming years. So we are very pleased that Vietnam will be the host of the APEC meetings next year. From here I'm going to Ho Chi Minh City where I will be meeting some officials and also visiting an E-town Technology Park. So there are many, many aspects that are growing quite quickly in this relationship, and I want to thank the Ambassador and his staff because they are a rather small lot, they are getting stretched, but they are doing an awful lot for both countries. One of the programs they have been doing is to mark the tenth year of normalization as a series of events that are cultural and educational in nature, including this contest for the logo that marks the tenth year. And I want to recognize Mr. Linh who is the creative artist who came up with this idea. Thank you. It is much better he did it than (if) I did, because this is worth seeing.

I am pleased to take questions. If you can please give your name and organization

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Sam Taylor with Deutche Press (DPA) news agency. Sir, could you clarify what you briefly mentioned about the CPC religious freedom designation? Specifically there are reports from Washington of agreements that a number of churches will be reopened in Vietnam. Which churches are those, and also has anything changed which the UBCV (Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam)? I know that Ambassador Marine has paid close attention to this organization.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: First, this effort has been supervised by Ambassador Hanford in the State Department. He gave a briefing yesterday which is, I imagine, on our website. This work is in partnership with the US Congress, which passed a law, the International Religious Freedom Act, that encourages this effort. And we have been making the most progress with Vietnam because the government, for several reasons, has been trying to move in this direction. And this effort covers all faiths. So some of the efforts involve the Catholics, they involve Evangelical Protestants, Buddhists. And as you mentioned some of the efforts the government are already taking is to re-open and re-register churches. To bar the forcing of people's renunciation of their faith. The government has also released some prisoners and granted amnesty in other cases. For the first time in twenty years, the National Congress of Evangelicals in Vietnam has been able to meet. And the government has entrusted much of this to its own national regulation. So, as we've seen around the world, freedom of faith across cultures is of universal interest. So we're pleased with these important steps and we want to work with the government as they implement them.

QUESTION: I would like to ask about the bilateral -- I am Mai from Vietnam Investment Review -- I would like to ask about the bilateral negotiations between Vietnam and the U.S. regarding Vietnam's effort to join the WTO. Do you think that Vietnam can expect any breakthrough so that it can speed up the process to join the WTO, hopefully by the end of this year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, I discussed this topic in some detail with both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Planning Minister. And since I'm no longer the U.S. Trade Ambassador, I was doing this on behalf of my new colleague, Ambassador Portman. The most important message that I wanted to convey was our strong support for Vietnamese accession to the WTO. And the accession process is a little complicated but, in brief, it involves a new member working out a multi-lateral agreement with all WTO members as well as a series of bi-lateral accords. The multi-lateral effort requires coming into compliance with the basic WTO rules which, for Vietnam, will require changes in some 89 legal documents. And the timing of that depends on the process within Vietnam, including the actions of the National Assembly. There was a meeting in Geneva on this in April and, as I discussed, there will be some informal sessions in the coming weeks and then another working party meeting in September. And the second dimension, the bi-lateral accord, U.S. and Vietnamese counterparts will be meeting very soon again on some of the issues such as opening a services market in agriculture and goods. Some of these items overlap with a full implementation of our basic trade agreement, particularly in the services area now. So there's significant work ahead, but my country is committed to working with Vietnam to try to move forward as rapidly as it can and make some of these changes in its legal system. Because, as I discussed with the Planning Minister, I hope these can fit into the next five-year plan as Vietnam integrates its WTO accession with its own decisions in opening up the economy.

QUESTION: Margie Mason from the Associated Press, I'm just wondering if you can tell us who Prime Minister Khai will be meeting with when he's in Washington next month.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The President.

QUESTION: I wanted to make sure. Who else will he be meeting with?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I don't know the full schedule. In most cases, the President's a pretty good place to start. And so I don't know the full dimension, but the key part is normally when a Prime Minister meets with the President. There will be other officials depending on who's in town, whether it be the Secretary of State or others. So I don't know exactly who's going be there, but we will work with the government on the full program.

I'm touched that you think that meetings with any of the rest of us matter when they meet the President, and I appreciate that. (laughter)

QUESTION: I also wanted to ask you Religious Freedom Agreement in Vietnam these churches that are re-opening if they're not state sanctioned or approved by the government, will they be allowed to re-open. Is that a part of the agreement?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I don't know the details of the re-registering and re-opening process. I don't know If you're based here, maybe the embassy can help follow up some of the details of it. I just know about the general direction that they have agreed to.

QUESTION: As the former U.S. Trade Representative at this moment, what advice can you have for Vietnam and the next question is do you think that the agreement for Vietnam to join the WTO can be reached and be signed during Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's visit to the U.S. and if that is reached at that time do you think that there will be enough time for the Congress to approve that and grant normal trade relations for Vietnam?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As I mentioned in the answer to the other question, when a country joins the WTO, it involves about all 148 members, not just the U.S. But as I also mentioned, with the work on the multi-lateral accord and the bi-lateral accord this is clearly going to take much longer than the next month.

I can't say precisely how long it will take because it depends not only on the actions of the Vietnamese government in putting these new rules in place, but Vietnam will also have to have bi-lateral discussions with China, Japan, and others.

But to connect this process to your first question, the advice that I tried to give my Vietnamese colleague is that they can use the liberalization process of the WTO accession to support the development process that they are pursuing more generally.

Because the WTO accession involves expanding the rule of law in the economic area. And stronger rule of law enhances the possibilities for further investment and growth for both foreign and Vietnamese firms.

I think we all recognize Vietnam is a developing economy and some of these changes will require transitions. But a point that I emphasized to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Planning Minister is that the more open services market can be very important in creating infrastructure for growth and development.

So this would involve topics like financial services, telecommunications, energy services, distribution rights, audio-visual. Those are elements that over time have been shown to be important in countries' ability to bring capital in effectively, have a communications system that makes it attractive to international firms doing global sourcing businesses, so the pieces all interconnect.

And one last observation on this, because it's a very good question, Vietnam has done a tremendous amount in a relatively short time. But a message that I would convey is that it can't rest, as it's part of a global economy and so it's competing with China or the other countries in South East Asia or Latin America or all around the world. So the United States wants to be supportive in that effort.

QUESTION: I am from Lao Dong Labor Newspaper. Can you talk about the significance of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's visit to the U.S. at this very special time, a very special year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I think that as your question suggests, it's a wonderful opportunity in the tenth year of normalization to have the Prime Minister visit and to review the topics that we've discussed today but also, importantly, to look to the future.

And connecting to the earlier question that I got, normally when a prime minister or head of government visits the United States, they take the opportunity to meet members of Congress and the business community and our press, and so they help tell their country's story. And that's why we're working with the Vietnamese government on so many of these items I've mentioned. Because we do have sensitive aspects of our past. But the Vietnamese help on issues like Missing in Action (POW-MIA) are very well received in the United States. And this is the first agreement we've signed on religious freedom, so that's an excellent example. And obviously from the Vietnamese side, the basic trade agreement has led to a very strong boost in Vietnamese trade to America. But I'm sure the leaders will want to talk about regional issues as well and global topics.

Let me make sure I go to someone in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, Kay Johnson with Time magazine.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'll come to you again.

QUESTION: To the countries of particular concern, the legislation requires the governments to make a decision on sanctions for these countries, does this new agreement mean that sanctions are now off the table? And will Vietnam be removed from this list and what other countries have been removed from this list in the past?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As Ambassador Hanford discussed yesterday, so again you can get the detail on the website, this is the first of the countries that have been designated under this law which we've been able to reach an agreement.

He discussed some of the other countries yesterday. But we hope that this agreement will actually be one that will lead to progress with others as well. But as for your particular point, Vietnam remains a country of particular concern. But that's because we want to work with Vietnam on the implementation of the agreement. But we consider the steps that the government has taken as very positive and we see this as a good turn. So as we access the follow-through, then we will determine whether that listing is appropriate in the future.

I don't want to forget this gentleman.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'm from Vietnam Net, Internet News Service. I know that you are a very strong man behind economic diplomacy, so do you have any economic diplomacy strategy or ideas, strong ideas in relation to Vietnam?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I mentioned some of the points in answers to other questions and I will know more after I visit the e-town technology park in Ho Chi Minh City. But I think the key message is that, well, Vietnam has accomplished a great deal. That it's competing in a global marketplace and therefore it must continue to open up so that people will choose to do business and invest in Vietnam as opposed to China or elsewhere. But I came away with a very strong personal impression. Because, I came in late last night and I saw a number of Vietnamese on scooters, and all around, working, and being out late at night. And I got up early in the morning to exercise around the lake and I saw a large number of Vietnamese out early in the morning. So I don't know when people sleep, but they seem very energetic and entrepreneurial. Although you could help me on your internet service by asking the badminton players to put the net a little higher because I almost lost my head when running. But these are cultural distinctions we have to overcome. Yes sir. (laughter)

QUESTION: I seek your clarification on the dates for the visit, you said 21st of June until what date and which places will he be?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The 21st of June will be the day when the Prime Minister meets the President. And now that we have that date, we will work with the Government here to plan a full schedule soon. I'll ask our embassy to also work with the Government to give you a fuller sense.

Ok, so is there anybody that've been blocked by the cameras that I've missed?

Ok back there? Ok, you sir.

QUESTION: I'm from Vietnam News Agency, the national wire service. Please give your assessment about the ten years of relations between the two countries and can you project the prospects for the coming year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You want me to do ten years in 30 seconds? (laughter)

Well, I'm sure the embassy website has a very long list of developments in the relationship, so I'll answer in a more impressionistic fashion. Even the list of topics that I discussed today suggests there's a very broad and deep set of relations. Obviously economic ties are very important, but this list includes a rich set of security and political issues, too. And my own sense is that the momentum in the relationship has picked up considerably over the past few years. I think it was good that President Clinton was able to visit Vietnam, and now we look forward to the Prime Minister's return visit. And I think next year when Vietnam hosts the APEC meeting, it will show its real regional and global position. Because you know the APEC meetings include a summit for all the heads of governments to visit, too. So one of the reasons that I wanted to come to Vietnam was to discuss these topics with my colleagues here. And so in addition to making suggestions, to listen to them about items that were important to them. So I hope that the relationship will continue to progress on a fast pace. Because, while there are historical issues of significance and sensitivities, you also sense the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Vietnamese people, as long as they raise the badminton net string a little higher. (laughter)

We'll do one other there's a woman here

QUESTION: Of course Vietnam and the U.S. have a very difficult history, but I must say that right now in the U.S. many Americans and many Vietnamese-Americans have not recognized the Vietnamese government and are still fighting us, they are having actions that are against the Vietnamese government like the recognition of the flag of the old Saigon regime, so at this time Vietnam is trying very hard to do reconciliation. So what is the official position of the U.S. State Department on this issue?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Ours is a free country. People can state the positions they believe in. It's a country where people can protest positions of our government or others. Where the press is free and, indeed, encouraged to be critical of the government. So that's part of living in a democratic, open society. But many of the Vietnamese in the United States are also people who want to come and do business here and have strong ties of family and culture. They open doors of greater understanding to non-Vietnamese in America about Vietnam. Where I live in northern Virginia there's a very large Vietnamese community; it's a very active part of America today. So what the governments try to do is build a framework for relations. They try to provide security for their people, but also economic opportunity and hope. We're almost done. So what I am here to do is to try to help create that framework, but it will ultimately be the people of our countries that develop the ties. And we believe those ties can grow stronger. Thank you.

### U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release May 6, 2005

2005/481

Remarks

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick At a Press Conference

Hilton Opera Hotel

Hanoi, Vietnam May 6, 2005

(1:00 p.m. local)

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, thank you all for coming. As I think many of you know, this visit is part of a larger trip that I'm making to Southeast Asia. Because as President Bush begins his second term in office, Secretary Rice and I wanted to visit the different regions to be able to consult and listen to our partners.

So in the past few days, I have had the chance to visit Thailand and the Philippines, and today Vietnam, and then tomorrow I will be in Indonesia, and Aceh, and then Malaysia, and Singapore. This is obviously an important year in US-Vietnam relations because it is the tenth anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties. I've had a chance to work with my Vietnamese colleagues over the past four years as the US Trade Representative. And I was pleased to be able to help pass the BasicTrade Agreement through our Congress, an agreement that was negotiated through our predecessor. And I was pleased I was able to get to know now Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan when he was the Trade Minister. So today I had a chance to meet Minister of Planning and Investment Phuc and the Deputy Prime Minister for a good lengthy meeting. And when I met the Deputy Prime Minister, I conveyed to him on behalf of the President the invitation for the Prime Minister to visit the United States on June 21. And then we had the chance to review issues in our bilateral regional and global relationships, and I think we both felt that we've established a strong foundation on which to build stronger bilateral ties but also broader relations.

There are of course challenges in US-Vietnam relationship because of historical legacies, but both countries are trying to address those while also looking to the future. So we spent time discussing Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization, the business and investment climate, the special HIV/AIDS program that the United States has with Vietnam. And I just came from visiting the Bach Mai Hospital where I had the chance to meet some of the medical personnel and some of the patients. And as you may know, this relates to a special program that the United States has with fifteen countries around the world, and Vietnam is the only one outside of Africa and the Caribbean.

I noted that I was very pleased to see that our Fulbright Program with Vietnam sends more graduate students from Vietnam to the United States than any other in the world. We talked about the importance of cooperating on the avian influenza issue, which is obviously both a health and a key economic issue here and elsewhere in the region. I was pleased that yesterday we were able to announce our agreement on religious freedom that builds on the actions that the Vietnamese government is taking. And we also discussed some other items that are important to build in our regional relationships the adoption issue, the work on the MIAs and human rights topics. We also discussed our growing security cooperation on counter-terrorism, anti-narcotics, organized crime, and ship visits. We are pleased that Vietnam's Minister of Defense was able to visit Secretary Rumsfeld in Washington.

And all these connections show the growing interest that both countries have in the regional relationships. It is my sense that Vietnam will have a growing influence in ASEAN in the upcoming years. So we are very pleased that Vietnam will be the host of the APEC meetings next year. From here I'm going to Ho Chi Minh City where I will be meeting some officials and also visiting an E-town Technology Park. So there are many, many aspects that are growing quite quickly in this relationship, and I want to thank the Ambassador and his staff because they are a rather small lot, they are getting stretched, but they are doing an awful lot for both countries. One of the programs they have been doing is to mark the tenth year of normalization as a series of events that are cultural and educational in nature, including this contest for the logo that marks the tenth year. And I want to recognize Mr. Linh who is the creative artist who came up with this idea. Thank you. It is much better he did it than (if) I did, because this is worth seeing.

I am pleased to take questions. If you can please give your name and organization

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Sam Taylor with Deutche Press (DPA) news agency. Sir, could you clarify what you briefly mentioned about the CPC religious freedom designation? Specifically there are reports from Washington of agreements that a number of churches will be reopened in Vietnam. Which churches are those, and also has anything changed which the UBCV (Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam)? I know that Ambassador Marine has paid close attention to this organization.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: First, this effort has been supervised by Ambassador Hanford in the State Department. He gave a briefing yesterday which is, I imagine, on our website. This work is in partnership with the US Congress, which passed a law, the International Religious Freedom Act, that encourages this effort. And we have been making the most progress with Vietnam because the government, for several reasons, has been trying to move in this direction. And this effort covers all faiths. So some of the efforts involve the Catholics, they involve Evangelical Protestants, Buddhists. And as you mentioned some of the efforts the government are already taking is to re-open and re-register churches. To bar the forcing of people's renunciation of their faith. The government has also released some prisoners and granted amnesty in other cases. For the first time in twenty years, the National Congress of Evangelicals in Vietnam has been able to meet. And the government has entrusted much of this to its own national regulation. So, as we've seen around the world, freedom of faith across cultures is of universal interest. So we're pleased with these important steps and we want to work with the government as they implement them.

QUESTION: I would like to ask about the bilateral -- I am Mai from Vietnam Investment Review -- I would like to ask about the bilateral negotiations between Vietnam and the U.S. regarding Vietnam's effort to join the WTO. Do you think that Vietnam can expect any breakthrough so that it can speed up the process to join the WTO, hopefully by the end of this year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, first, I discussed this topic in some detail with both the Deputy Prime Minister and the Planning Minister. And since I'm no longer the U.S. Trade Ambassador, I was doing this on behalf of my new colleague, Ambassador Portman. The most important message that I wanted to convey was our strong support for Vietnamese accession to the WTO. And the accession process is a little complicated but, in brief, it involves a new member working out a multi-lateral agreement with all WTO members as well as a series of bi-lateral accords. The multi-lateral effort requires coming into compliance with the basic WTO rules which, for Vietnam, will require changes in some 89 legal documents. And the timing of that depends on the process within Vietnam, including the actions of the National Assembly. There was a meeting in Geneva on this in April and, as I discussed, there will be some informal sessions in the coming weeks and then another working party meeting in September. And the second dimension, the bi-lateral accord, U.S. and Vietnamese counterparts will be meeting very soon again on some of the issues such as opening a services market in agriculture and goods. Some of these items overlap with a full implementation of our basic trade agreement, particularly in the services area now. So there's significant work ahead, but my country is committed to working with Vietnam to try to move forward as rapidly as it can and make some of these changes in its legal system. Because, as I discussed with the Planning Minister, I hope these can fit into the next five-year plan as Vietnam integrates its WTO accession with its own decisions in opening up the economy.

QUESTION: Margie Mason from the Associated Press, I'm just wondering if you can tell us who Prime Minister Khai will be meeting with when he's in Washington next month.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The President.

QUESTION: I wanted to make sure. Who else will he be meeting with?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I don't know the full schedule. In most cases, the President's a pretty good place to start. And so I don't know the full dimension, but the key part is normally when a Prime Minister meets with the President. There will be other officials depending on who's in town, whether it be the Secretary of State or others. So I don't know exactly who's going be there, but we will work with the government on the full program.

I'm touched that you think that meetings with any of the rest of us matter when they meet the President, and I appreciate that. (laughter)

QUESTION: I also wanted to ask you Religious Freedom Agreement in Vietnam these churches that are re-opening if they're not state sanctioned or approved by the government, will they be allowed to re-open. Is that a part of the agreement?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I don't know the details of the re-registering and re-opening process. I don't know If you're based here, maybe the embassy can help follow up some of the details of it. I just know about the general direction that they have agreed to.

QUESTION: As the former U.S. Trade Representative at this moment, what advice can you have for Vietnam and the next question is do you think that the agreement for Vietnam to join the WTO can be reached and be signed during Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's visit to the U.S. and if that is reached at that time do you think that there will be enough time for the Congress to approve that and grant normal trade relations for Vietnam?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As I mentioned in the answer to the other question, when a country joins the WTO, it involves about all 148 members, not just the U.S. But as I also mentioned, with the work on the multi-lateral accord and the bi-lateral accord this is clearly going to take much longer than the next month.

I can't say precisely how long it will take because it depends not only on the actions of the Vietnamese government in putting these new rules in place, but Vietnam will also have to have bi-lateral discussions with China, Japan, and others.

But to connect this process to your first question, the advice that I tried to give my Vietnamese colleague is that they can use the liberalization process of the WTO accession to support the development process that they are pursuing more generally.

Because the WTO accession involves expanding the rule of law in the economic area. And stronger rule of law enhances the possibilities for further investment and growth for both foreign and Vietnamese firms.

I think we all recognize Vietnam is a developing economy and some of these changes will require transitions. But a point that I emphasized to the Deputy Prime Minister and the Planning Minister is that the more open services market can be very important in creating infrastructure for growth and development.

So this would involve topics like financial services, telecommunications, energy services, distribution rights, audio-visual. Those are elements that over time have been shown to be important in countries' ability to bring capital in effectively, have a communications system that makes it attractive to international firms doing global sourcing businesses, so the pieces all interconnect.

And one last observation on this, because it's a very good question, Vietnam has done a tremendous amount in a relatively short time. But a message that I would convey is that it can't rest, as it's part of a global economy and so it's competing with China or the other countries in South East Asia or Latin America or all around the world. So the United States wants to be supportive in that effort.

QUESTION: I am from Lao Dong Labor Newspaper. Can you talk about the significance of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's visit to the U.S. at this very special time, a very special year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I think that as your question suggests, it's a wonderful opportunity in the tenth year of normalization to have the Prime Minister visit and to review the topics that we've discussed today but also, importantly, to look to the future.

And connecting to the earlier question that I got, normally when a prime minister or head of government visits the United States, they take the opportunity to meet members of Congress and the business community and our press, and so they help tell their country's story. And that's why we're working with the Vietnamese government on so many of these items I've mentioned. Because we do have sensitive aspects of our past. But the Vietnamese help on issues like Missing in Action (POW-MIA) are very well received in the United States. And this is the first agreement we've signed on religious freedom, so that's an excellent example. And obviously from the Vietnamese side, the basic trade agreement has led to a very strong boost in Vietnamese trade to America. But I'm sure the leaders will want to talk about regional issues as well and global topics.

Let me make sure I go to someone in the back.

QUESTION: Hi, Kay Johnson with Time magazine.

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: I'll come to you again.

QUESTION: To the countries of particular concern, the legislation requires the governments to make a decision on sanctions for these countries, does this new agreement mean that sanctions are now off the table? And will Vietnam be removed from this list and what other countries have been removed from this list in the past?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: As Ambassador Hanford discussed yesterday, so again you can get the detail on the website, this is the first of the countries that have been designated under this law which we've been able to reach an agreement.

He discussed some of the other countries yesterday. But we hope that this agreement will actually be one that will lead to progress with others as well. But as for your particular point, Vietnam remains a country of particular concern. But that's because we want to work with Vietnam on the implementation of the agreement. But we consider the steps that the government has taken as very positive and we see this as a good turn. So as we access the follow-through, then we will determine whether that listing is appropriate in the future.

I don't want to forget this gentleman.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'm from Vietnam Net, Internet News Service. I know that you are a very strong man behind economic diplomacy, so do you have any economic diplomacy strategy or ideas, strong ideas in relation to Vietnam?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Well, I mentioned some of the points in answers to other questions and I will know more after I visit the e-town technology park in Ho Chi Minh City. But I think the key message is that, well, Vietnam has accomplished a great deal. That it's competing in a global marketplace and therefore it must continue to open up so that people will choose to do business and invest in Vietnam as opposed to China or elsewhere. But I came away with a very strong personal impression. Because, I came in late last night and I saw a number of Vietnamese on scooters, and all around, working, and being out late at night. And I got up early in the morning to exercise around the lake and I saw a large number of Vietnamese out early in the morning. So I don't know when people sleep, but they seem very energetic and entrepreneurial. Although you could help me on your internet service by asking the badminton players to put the net a little higher because I almost lost my head when running. But these are cultural distinctions we have to overcome. Yes sir. (laughter)

QUESTION: I seek your clarification on the dates for the visit, you said 21st of June until what date and which places will he be?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: The 21st of June will be the day when the Prime Minister meets the President. And now that we have that date, we will work with the Government here to plan a full schedule soon. I'll ask our embassy to also work with the Government to give you a fuller sense.

Ok, so is there anybody that've been blocked by the cameras that I've missed?

Ok back there? Ok, you sir.

QUESTION: I'm from Vietnam News Agency, the national wire service. Please give your assessment about the ten years of relations between the two countries and can you project the prospects for the coming year?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: You want me to do ten years in 30 seconds? (laughter)

Well, I'm sure the embassy website has a very long list of developments in the relationship, so I'll answer in a more impressionistic fashion. Even the list of topics that I discussed today suggests there's a very broad and deep set of relations. Obviously economic ties are very important, but this list includes a rich set of security and political issues, too. And my own sense is that the momentum in the relationship has picked up considerably over the past few years. I think it was good that President Clinton was able to visit Vietnam, and now we look forward to the Prime Minister's return visit. And I think next year when Vietnam hosts the APEC meeting, it will show its real regional and global position. Because you know the APEC meetings include a summit for all the heads of governments to visit, too. So one of the reasons that I wanted to come to Vietnam was to discuss these topics with my colleagues here. And so in addition to making suggestions, to listen to them about items that were important to them. So I hope that the relationship will continue to progress on a fast pace. Because, while there are historical issues of significance and sensitivities, you also sense the strong bonds of friendship between the American and Vietnamese people, as long as they raise the badminton net string a little higher. (laughter)

We'll do one other there's a woman here

QUESTION: Of course Vietnam and the U.S. have a very difficult history, but I must say that right now in the U.S. many Americans and many Vietnamese-Americans have not recognized the Vietnamese government and are still fighting us, they are having actions that are against the Vietnamese government like the recognition of the flag of the old Saigon regime, so at this time Vietnam is trying very hard to do reconciliation. So what is the official position of the U.S. State Department on this issue?

DEPUTY SECRETARY ZOELLICK: Ours is a free country. People can state the positions they believe in. It's a country where people can protest positions of our government or others. Where the press is free and, indeed, encouraged to be critical of the government. So that's part of living in a democratic, open society. But many of the Vietnamese in the United States are also people who want to come and do business here and have strong ties of family and culture. They open doors of greater understanding to non-Vietnamese in America about Vietnam. Where I live in northern Virginia there's a very large Vietnamese community; it's a very active part of America today. So what the governments try to do is build a framework for relations. They try to provide security for their people, but also economic opportunity and hope. We're almost done. So what I am here to do is to try to help create that framework, but it will ultimately be the people of our countries that develop the ties. And we believe those ties can grow stronger. Thank you.

2005/481

Released on May 6, 2005


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