Christopher R. Hill Interview With VTV (Vietnam)
Christopher R. Hill, Assistant Secretary for East
Asian and Pacific Affairs
March 3, 2008
Interview with VTV (Vietnam)
VTV: You just had a long trip to Northeast Asia. What's the most significant outcome of the trip?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, I went with Secretary Rice to attend the inauguration of the new South Korean President, Lee Myung-bak. As you know, we have a very close relationship with South Korea, and we are expecting to continue that relationship and do even more things in the future. So that was very important.
Another aspect of the trip was to go to China. I actually made three different side trips to China. Here we're really trying to work closely with China on finding a way forward in the Six-Party Talks. And we exchanged some ideas. We had hoped to have additional talks with the North Koreans. We were not able to have those additional talks, but I expect we'll be meeting the North Koreans soon.
The other aspect of this long trip that I was very pleased to have was my visit to Bangkok, where I talked to members of the new civilian government. We're very proud of our long relationship with Thailand. We've had some lost time in recent months, and now we need to make up for that time. So it was a good visit.
VTV: Would you give some remarks on the development of the U.S.-Vietnamese relations in the year 2007 and where we will go in the year 2008.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: First of all, the relationship with Vietnam has grown very substantially and in a very positive direction. Our economic ties are good. Many of our companies are interested in investing in Vietnam. I think that's good news for Vietnam, and it's good news for the United States. So we'd like to continue those economic ties.
In addition, of course, we work with Vietnam on trying to build up our political relations but also to talk to Vietnam about regional issues. Vietnam is an important member of ASEAN. We have some regional issues of concern. There is the problem of Burma. We'd like to talk to ASEAN members about this, including Vietnam. But finally, Vietnam is a member of the Security Council. So that means there are a lot of international issues for us to discuss.
So 2008 will really be an important year for us. It's an important year because we've never really talked to Vietnam about international issues before, and now we're doing that. We'll be talking to Vietnam about places that we've never discussed before. For example, Kosovo, in the Balkans, in the middle of Europe. We've never talked to Vietnam about things like Iran. We're going to be talking to Vietnam about those things now.
So it really represents, I think, a growing maturity in our relationship, which is based on a broad base of political issues, economic issues, and now international security issues.
VTV: Would you give your opinions about economic ties between the two countries and the U.S. investment trend in Vietnam?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Well, the investment trends are very positive. I think that U.S. companies are very interested in coming here. There are some impediments to more economic ties. These are all issues that I think the Vietnamese authorities are concerned about and working very hard to address. For example, infrastructure. Vietnam needs to work on things like that. Educational issues are another area. But we feel very positive about the dialogue we have with the Vietnamese authorities on these issues, and I hope to play a part in that while I'm here in Vietnam.
VTV: Regarding education cooperation and exchange, is there any policy in place to increase the number of overseas Vietnamese students in the U.S.?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: We'd like to do that. Last year we had something like 6,000 Vietnamese in the U.S., and we'd like to see that increase. I know our Ambassador, Ambassador Michalak, is working personally on this and is very interested in that subject. He recently chaired a meeting on education with over 300 participants to look for ways in which we can increase educational exchanges.
As Vietnam goes forward -- and it is going forward; this economic growth in Vietnam is almost unprecedented in its history -- Vietnam is going to find, as other countries have found, that it needs to make sure that its educational system is up to the challenges of a modern economy. That's something where I think we can help. The United States' education system is something that we Americans are very proud of, and we'd like to share it with the Vietnamese and especially see if we can increase the number of Vietnamese students.
So my prediction is that you'll see in the next year or two an increase in the number of students with the opportunity to study in the U.S.
VTV: The U.S. has committed an aid package of $3 million to help solve the issues of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Any timetable for the U.S. plan to help to solve these issues?
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: As you know, that's a very difficult issue -- the issue of Agent Orange. It comes out of a very tragic time -- a tragic time for you, a tragic time for us. We're really interested in working closely with the Vietnamese authorities and also working internationally and multilaterally to address that. We will be looking for other funding as well, because obviously we can't solve it without funding. So we will work very hard on the funding issue, but especially work very hard with the idea of working with people who want to solve the issue, who want to help resolve the issue. We'll work very closely with Vietnam in the future. I look forward to having some discussions today about that. We'll continue to work closely with Vietnam.
VTV: Fantastic. Thank you, Mr. Hill.
ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL: Thank you.
Released on March 4, 2008