The newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State and the push for Vietnam

VietNamNet Bridge - Former Ambassador Ngo Quang Xuan said that under the time of the US Secretary of State John Kerry, Vietnam in particular and ASEAN in general will have favorable conditions to build the strategic partnership with the US.

U.S. Secretary of State, Ngo Quang Xuan, John Kerry

Mr. John Kerry was sworn in as the Secretary of State in Washington DC on February 1. In your opinion, what advantages and disadvantages is the new US Secretary of State facing?

Coming from a famous family (Forbes – a big ship owner from the nineteenth century and later a media empire), with personal prestige and 29-year experience as a senator and such a long period as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and more than four years as the President of this committee, I can say that Mr. John Kerry has many advantages.

In the vote in the Senate, he had 94 ayes and only three noes, which means that he almost won the absolute support of the senators of both parties. The result is sufficient to prove his reputation and position in the US.

He is also a popular politician in the international arena. However, he may have to face a number of challenges: whether he can overcome his predecessor Hillary Clinton, who is evaluated as possibly the best secretary of state so far of the White House. Seeking effective solutions for the Middle East, preventing Iran from owning nuclear weapons, or the Syrian issue, etc...

The attention has focused on the U.S. policy in the Asia-Pacific in his tenure, with issues relating to ASEAN, to the East Sea, or the policy with China. What do you think about it?

During his time at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Kerry supported the United States to continue to move strategic focus to Asia, especially on the relations with China, but also not neglect any region. This is a wise foreign policy.

He always supports the US-ASEAN relations, is very interested in the freedom of navigation in the East Sea as well as the stable and peaceful environment in the region.

When realizing that ASEAN and China could not find an effective communication channel on the East Sea issue, he stressed the importance of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). He is also one of the five senators who introduced the resolution on the East Sea at the Senate.

As a person who is "knowledgeable" about John Kerry, you witnessed the great efforts and contribution of the newly-appointed U.S. Secretary of State to the early days, when the US and Vietnam prepared for normalizing the bilateral relations. How was it?

In my early years as the Ambassador, the Head of the Permanent Delegation of Vietnam to the UN (the period when the US and Vietnam accelerated contact in order to promote the normalization of relations), knowing that I was going to visit the state of Massachusetts, he sent a warm welcome letter to me (he won five consecutive terms as the Senator of this state from 1984).

I can say that it took 18 years from the time of President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) when the US decided not to use the veto against the reunified Vietnam as a UN member to the time the US-Vietnam decided to normalize the bilateral relations (1994) under President Clinton.

The Vietnam-US relations have gone through many ups and downs during that time. Vietnam just stepped out of the war, but since 1979, the US and China built an alliance to implement the cruel policy of blockade and embargo to undermine the career of healing the wounds of war of our people.

The important contribution of John Kerry and his friends, especially Mr. John Mc Cain, who is also a veteran of the Vietnam War and a senior senator, actively promoted the normalization of relations between the US and Vietnam.

Returning from the Vietnam War in 1970 and in 1984 he became the senator until now, Mr. Kerry has consistently advocated against unjust wars, advocacy to improve relations with Vietnam.

Before President Clinton repealed the embargo, two Senators--Kerry and Mc Cain had visited Vietnam eight times to make surveys and collect data on Vietnam, to promote the efforts to find MIAs in Vietnam.

The surveys gradually built up the trust from both sides and laid the first bricks for the process of normalizing relations. After the two countries normalized the relations, Senator John Kerry (Democratic Party) and Senator John Mc Cain (Republican Party) are the two pillars who continue to actively support the development of bilateral relations in all fields.

The policy towards the Asia-Pacific region, with ASEAN as the key, is being deployed robustly by the US. But some observers said that it seems that the U.S. presence in this region is mainly the political and security involvement and influence rather than economic boost.

With the ASEAN as the core, how will the US-ASEAN relations in 2013? How can Vietnam and the US take advantage of this regional playground to benefit the bilateral relations?

I would say that Mr. John Kerry is one of the leading experts of the US about our region.

I do not doubt that under the time of Secretary of State John Kerry, Vietnam in particular and ASEAN in general have favorable conditions to build strategic partnerships, to develop more strongly comprehensive cooperation in all fields, particularly in trade, economics and defense-security for the benefit of both parties, for peace, stability and common development of the region and the world.

Xuan Linh
U.S. Secretary of State, Ngo Quang Xuan, John Kerry