|US President Barack Obama delivers a speech in Hà Nội yesterday. - Photo Minh Sơn/Vietnamplus|
HÀ NỘI — US President Barack Obama is convinced that Việt Nam and the US can show the world how human dignity can be advanced in cooperation, not in conflicts.
The visiting president spoke to a crowd of more than 2,300 mostly young Vietnamese people at the National Convention Centre in Hà Nội yesterday.
“At a time when many conflicts seem intractable — never seem to end — we have shown that hearts can change and a different future is possible when we refuse to be prisoners of the past,” Obama said.
“We’ve shown how peace can be better than war. We’ve shown how human dignity can be advanced in cooperation, not in conflicts. That’s what Việt Nam and America can show the world.”
With that in mind, he stressed that his visit did not focus on the past or on difficult history, but on the future, and on the prosperity, security and human dignity that both countries can advance together.
“I also come here with deep respect for Việt Nam. On this visit, my heart has been touched by the kindness for which Vietnamese people are known. Even I feel the friendship between our people.”
The American partnership with Việt Nam is based on the idea that “Việt Nam is an independent Southeast nation, and no nation can decide your destiny.”
The President said the US has an interest in Việt Nam’s success. But the comprehensive bilateral partnership is still in the early stages.
“Let’s work together to create real opportunity and prosperity for all of our people. Today Việt Nam and the US are partners. I believe our experience holds lessons for the world.”
He also said the visit between Việt Nam and the US would put the bilateral relationship on a firm stand for decades to come. “The two governments are working more closely together than ever before.”
“In a knowledge-based economy, jobs go to people who have freedom to think for themselves and to change their ideas to innovate. And real economic partnership is not just about one country extracting resources from another. It’s about investing in great resources which are people, skills, and talents, whether you live in big city or rural village. And that’s the kind of partnership the US offers."
Recalling that three million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians - and more than 58,300 American soldiers - lost their lives during the war, the President stressed that Viet Nam and the US can work together as they acknowledge the pain and sacrifice on both sides.
“Recently, over the past two decades, Việt Nam has achieved enormous progress. And today the world can see the strides you have made,” President Obama said. He noted the increase in high-rises, shopping malls, and urban centres in Hà Nội and HCM City, while tens of millions of people connect via Facebook and Instagram.
“Việt Nam has achieved extraordinary progress in a very short time.”
President Obama said real progress can been seen in people’s lives.
“Việt Nam has dramatically reduced extreme poverty, boosted people’s incomes, and lifted millions into a fast-growing middle class. Hunger, disease, child mortality, the number of people with drinking water and electricity, the number of boys and girls in schools, all have improved.”
Discussing the tense situation in the East Sea (South China Sea), Obama called out big nations who flex their muscles to bully smaller ones.
“Nations are sovereign. And no matter how small or big a nation may be, its sovereignty should be respected and its territories should not be violated,” he said.
The open speech came just one day after Obama announced the United States is fully lifting a decades-long arms embargo on Việt Nam, following a partial removal of the ban in 2014.
“Việt Nam will now have greater access to the equipment it needs to improve its security," Obama said.
Obama also called for the continued strengthening of regional institutions, like ASEAN and the East Asia Summit, as a “peaceful resolution” should be sought for the simmering South China Sea dispute involving Việt Nam, its giant neighbour China, and other parties.
In the meantime, the US “will stand with our partners in upholding key principles, like freedom of navigation and overflight” in international waters, President Obama said.
“The United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and will support the right of all countries to do the same”.
Human rights issue
Though differences still remained, Obama acknowledged “progressive steps” of the Vietnamese Government in recent years regarding human rights issues – one of the biggest barriers to closer ties between Việt Nam and the US in past decades.
Examples of this progress were cited by President Obama: Việt Nam committed to bring its law in line with the new constitution and international norms; it also agreed to economic and labour reforms, under the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The US President said all countries would be more successful if “universal values” are upheld, including: the right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, the right to access information, and the right to assemble, associate and demonstrate – all of which are already written into Việt Nam’s Constitution.
“Việt Nam will do things differently than the US does. But these are the basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve,” he said.
Nguyễn Thùy Dương, a freshman at the Foreign Trade University, expressed her excitement and honour at attending the speech yesterday.
“I’m so impressed with President Obama. He cited a lot of Vietnamese names, poems and songs. By carefully looking into our culture and history, he has shown that he respects our country, Viet Nam,” she said.
A senior student at the National Economics University, Phan Trâm Anh, said she was thrilled to finally get the chance to see and listen to President Obama.
“He knows a lot about the problems faced by Việt Nam,” Anh said. “He is so amazing. I just hope I can listen to him more and learn from him.” – VNS