US, Vietnamese leaders speak of comprehensive partnership

Updated: 2013-07-26 07:59


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US, Vietnamese leaders speak of comprehensive partnership

US President Barack Obama (R) shakes hands with Vietnam's President Troung Tan Sang in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington July 25, 2013. [Photo/Xinhua] 

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama and his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang on Thursday spoke of a "comprehensive partnership" between their countries aiming for even greater cooperation.

After his talks with Truong Tan Sang, the second Vietnamese head of state to visit the White House since the normalization of relations in 1995, Obama spoke of the "steady progression and strengthening" of bilateral relationship as well as the " extraordinarily complex history" between their countries.

He called Sang's visit a move that "signifies the maturing and the next stage of the development between the United States and Vietnam."

"Step by step, what we have been able to establish is a degree of mutual respect and trust that has allowed us now to announce a comprehensive partnership between our two countries that will allow even greater cooperation on a whole range of issues," Obama told reporters at the White House.

He cited trade and commerce, military-to-military cooperation, multilateral work on issues like disaster relief, and scientific and educational exchanges.

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement involving the United States, Vietnam and 10 other nations on either side of the Pacific, Obama said "We're committed to the ambitious goal of completing this agreement before the end of the year."

The TPP aims to create the largest free trade zone in the world.

For his part, Sang said he had "a very candid, open, useful and constructive discussion" with Obama.

"Given the progress of our bilateral relationship over the past 18 years, it is time now to form a comprehensive partnership in order to further strengthen our relations in various areas," he said.

The two presidents discussed as well maritime issues in the South China Sea and other parts of the Asia-Pacific region. Obama said he "very much" appreciated Vietnam's commitment to working with ASEAN and the East Asia Summit to establish a code of conduct for the resolution of the issues "peacefully and fairly."

Sang acknowledged lingering differences over human rights as Obama pressed him on issues like freedom of expression, freedom of religion and freedom of assembly.

He said he had invited Obama to visit Vietnam, and that Obama pledged to "try his best" to make this trip during his term.

Obama's meeting with Sang in his Oval Office is his fourth with ASEAN leaders this year, as he has hosted leaders from Brunei, Singapore and Myanmar.

Obama said that at the conclusion of their meeting, Sang showed him a copy of a letter written by former Vietnamese chairman Ho Chi Minh to former U.S. president Harry Truman talking about his interest in cooperation with the United States.

"And President Sang indicated that even if it's 67 years later, it's good that we're still making progress," said Obama.