Vietnam

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Overview

Location of the longest war in American history, where nearly 60,000 American lost their lives, Vietnam has a long tradition of resistance to foreign powers seeking to influence its affairs. The Vietnamese achieved independence after 1,000 years of Chinese rule, and in the 19th century endured over 80 years of French imperial domination before expelling them. Though much of the country is hilly and even mountainous, rich agricultural land in the north and south are capable of feeding the populace. 

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Over 1,000 miles in length from north to south, Vietnam forms the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the Gulf of Thailand to the south and west, and the South China Sea to the east. Vietnam has an area of 128,527 square miles, slightly larger than the state of New Mexico, or almost the size of Germany.   Except for the coastal plains and two major river deltas – the Red River in the north and the Mekong in the far south – most of the country is dominated by the Annamese Cordillera mountain range. Specifically, level land covers no more than 20% of the country, while mountains account for 40%, and smaller hills another 40%. Tropical forests cover 42% of Vietnam, mountains and flatlands alike. Vietnam’s capital is Hanoi, with a population of 3.4 million, while the largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (which under the name Saigon was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina from 1864 to 1948, and of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975), where 6.6 million Vietnamese live.  

 
Population: 86.1 million
 
Religions: Buddhist (usually an amalgam of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism) 48.5%, non-religious 12.6%, Catholic 9.3%, Cao Dai 2.5%, Hoa Hao 2.4%, Protestant 1.5%, Muslim 0.1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1%.
 
Languages: Vietnamese (official) 79.6%, Tày 1.8%, Muong 1.4%, Central Khmer 1.3%, Nung 1.0%, Yue Chinese 1.0%, Jarai 0.4%, Bahnar 0.2%. There are 102 living languages in Vietnam.

 

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History
Vietnam's identity has been shaped by long-running conflicts, both internally and with foreign forces. In 111 BC, China’s Han dynasty conquered the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam. China ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture, but also leaving a strong tradition of resistance to foreign occupation. In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty. After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward. They finally reached the agriculturally rich Mekong Delta, where they encountered previously settled communities of Cham and Cambodians. 
 
As Vietnam’s Le dynasty declined, powerful northern and southern families, the Trinh and Nguyen, fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries. A peasant revolt originating in the Tay Son region of central Vietnam defeated both the Nguyen and the Trinh and unified the country at the end of the 18th century. However, a surviving member of the Nguyen family suppressed this revolt, thus founding the Nguyen dynasty as Emperor Gia Long in 1802.
 
Western penetration into Vietnam
In 1516 Portuguese adventurers arriving by sea inaugurated the era of Western penetration into Vietnam. Though they were followed by missionaries and traders over the next two centuries, by the end of the 17th century the rival Trinh and Nguyen states had lost interest in maintaining relations with European countries. By the middle of the nineteenth century, a succession of anti-Western emperors expelled foreign, mainly French, missionaries, in an attempt to eliminate foreign influence. In response, France invaded Vietnam in 1858 and controlled the Southern third of the country by 1862, naming their colony Cochinchina, with a capital in Saigon. By 1885 the French had conquered all of Vietnam, which they divided into three colonies: Cochinchina in the south, Tonkin in the north, and Annam in between. All of which became part of French Indochina in 1887, along with Cambodia and, in 1893, Laos. 
 
Movements of national liberation: 1887 - 1954
The independence movement in Vietnam started with the establishment of French rule. Many local officials refused to collaborate with the French, and some led guerrilla groups in attacks on French outposts. A new national movement arose in the early 20th century, but was suppressed by the French with the help of China. Finally, between 1930 and 1945, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in making his Indochinese Communist Party the leading movement for national liberation against French imperialism. Born in 1890, Ho was the outstanding figure in 20th century Vietnamese history. As a young seaman, Ho Chi Minh traveled widely, living in New York and Boston in 1912 and 1913, London between 1913 and 1917, and settling in Paris in 1917, where he began an intensive study of history and politics. Inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and by President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches favoring national self-determination, in 1918 Ho petitioned Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference to persuade the French government to grant Vietnam democratic governance and other reforms—but not independence. However, Wilson ignored him. A few years later, in 1921, Ho became a founding member of the Communist Party of France, reckoning—correctly as it turned out—that the Soviet Union would be more likely to assist Vietnamese independence than the US would. Indeed, Ho once admitted that, “It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me.” A self-professed admirer of French language and culture, Ho spent the 1920s and 1930s in China, Russia and Western Europe, finally returning to Vietnam in 1941, where he quickly became the leader of its independence movement, fighting both the French and the Japanese. 
 
The exploitative political economy of French rule in Vietnam explains the eventual success of Ho’s communist movement in two ways. First, politically French rule was entirely autocratic, employing French administrators for all but the most minor functions, extending no civil liberties to the native population, and brutally crushing dissent. Second, economically French colonial capitalism was overwhelmingly exploitative of the Vietnamese. The French created a plantation economy in Vietnam, concentrating landownership among a small number of nearly feudal landholders, while the mass of peasants owned little or no land. Further, the French excluded the Vietnamese from participation in the limited development of modern industry and trade. Whatever economic progress Vietnam made, benefited only the French and the small class of wealthy Vietnamese landlords the colonial regime created. As a result, no property-owning indigenous middle class developed in colonial Vietnam. Thus, capitalism manifested itself to the Vietnamese as an exploitative system of foreign rule which benefitted them little or not at all. The Vietnamese had little to no stake in either the colonial government or in capitalism, whose exploitative nature they viewed as part and parcel of French rule. 
 
Ho’s Communist Party cemented its positive reputation during the Japanese occupation of World War II. At that time, Indochina was a French-administered possession of Japan, hosting about 30,000 Japanese troops. Shortly after his return to Vietnam in 1941, Ho Chi Minh formed a broad nationalist alliance called the League for the Independence of Vietnam (the “Viet Minh”), which the communist party dominated. The Viet Minh provided the Allies information on Japanese troop movements in Indochina, and sought recognition as the legitimate representative of the Vietnamese people. Indeed, in early 1945 the American OSS (the precursor of the CIA) armed and trained Viet Minh guerillas, and an American medic provided critical treatment for Ho’s malaria, probably saving his life. When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the Viet Minh led a general uprising and seized power in Hanoi. On September 2, the Viet Minh issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, in which Ho quoted the American Declaration of Independence and once again actively sought American support. Bao Dai, the Vietnamese puppet emperor, quickly abdicated and declared his loyalty to the newly proclaimed Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 
 
The French, however, were determined to restore their power in Indochina and seized control of the Cochinchina region around Saigon. Thus, at the beginning of 1946, Vietnam was divided between a Vietnamese led north and a foreign dominated south, a situation that was to last for nearly thirty years. 
 
The First Indochina War
Negotiations between the French and Ho Chi Minh led to an agreement in March 1946. The Viet Minh agreed to delay full independence if France would recognize the Viet Minh government as a free state within the French Union (the successor to the French Empire) and withdraw its troops over five years. The French abrogated the agreement as early as June, when Georges-Thierry d’Argenlieu, the high commissioner for Indochina, proclaimed Cochin China an autonomous republic. In November, the French navy bombarded Haiphong, the large port city outside of Hanoi, causing thousands of civilian casualties, and the Viet Minh responded by attacking French troops in Hanoi.
 
Although the French were initially confident of victory, they ignored the underlying cause of the war—the desire of the Vietnamese people, regardless of their politics, to achieve unity and independence for their country. French efforts to co-opt these aspirations were devious and ineffective. The French reunited Cochinchina with the rest of Vietnam in 1949, proclaimed the Associated State of Vietnam, and appointed the former emperor Bao Dai as chief of state. Most nationalists denounced these maneuvers, and the Viet Minh retained their leadership of the independence struggle. 
 
Meanwhile, the Viet Minh waged an increasingly successful guerrilla war, aided after 1949 by the new communist government of China. The US, fearing what it interpreted as the spread of communism in Asia, gave million of dollars to the French, and was eventually paying for 80% of the war’s cost. However, faced with a growing antiwar movement in France, and shaken by the fall of the garrison at Dien Bien Phu, North Vietnam in May 1954, the French government agreed to an armistice in 1954. 
 
Between the Wars: 1954–1960
The agreements concluded in Geneva between April and July 1954 (the Geneva Accords), signed by French and Viet Minh representatives. The agreement provided for a cease-fire, a temporary division of the country into two military zones (north and south), and nationwide, internationally supervised elections for July 1956. They also expressly forbade interference in Vietnam by foreign powers. All Viet Minh forces withdrew north of the 17th parallel, and all French and Associated State of Vietnam troops remained south of it. An international commission was established to supervise execution of the agreement, including the elections. South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem soon toppled Emperor Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum and proclaimed himself president. Because the Viet Minh appeared certain to win the elections, Diem, supported by the US, refused to hold them, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections. 
 
The two Vietnams now began to reconstruct their war-ravaged country. With assistance from China and the Soviet Union, North Vietnam began an ambitious program of industrialization and agricultural reform, which was nevertheless unpopular with their people. In the south, however, Diem’s early success in consolidating power failed to yield concrete political and economic achievements. Entrenched interests sabotaged land reform, and the regime, with US financial backing, instead focused its energies on building up the military and security forces to counter the still-influential Viet Minh. Diem used authoritarian methods against all whom he regarded as opponents, and discriminated against non-Catholics (Diem was Catholic), despite the fact that Catholicism was a minority faith. Diem made loyalty to himself and his family paramount, while his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, founded an elitist party to spy on officials, army officers, and prominent local citizens. 
 
Meanwhile, with support from the north, an indigenous opposition movement, called the National Liberation Front or Viet Cong, launched an insurgency to topple the South Vietnamese government and reunify the country. The deaths of eight unarmed Buddhist civilians on May 8, 1963, in the city of Huế, South Vietnam, at the hands of government security forces, only worsened Diem’s troubles. The army and police had fired guns and launched grenades into a crowd of Buddhists who were protesting a government ban on flying the Buddhist flag on the day of Vesak, which commemorates the birth of Gautama Buddha. Diem’s clumsy attempt to blame the Viet Cong for the incident led to growing discontent among the Buddhist majority. By late 1963, the Viet Cong insurrection appeared close to succeeding, when the South Vietnamese army, with the implicit approval of the US, overthrew and killed Diem in a November 1963 coup d’état. 
 
The new government, however, was no more effective than its predecessor. A period of political instability followed, until the military seized control in June 1965. The military government restricted civil liberties, labeled political opponents communists and imprisoned them, and allowed political parties to operate only if they did not openly criticize government policy. These tendencies and policies remained in effect through the fall of Saigon in 1975, meaning that South Vietnam was no more free or democratic than North Vietnam. South Vietnam was also incompetent in its fight with the Viet Cong. Aided by a steady infiltration of weapons and advisers along the “Ho Chi Minh trail” from the north, Viet Cong fighting strength grew from about 30,000 men in 1963 to about 150,000 in 1965 when, according to American intelligence analysts, the survival of the Saigon regime was seriously threatened.   
 
The Second Indochina War: The US in Vietnam, 1960-1975
Until 1960 US support for the South Vietnam was limited to money, military equipment and 700 advisers for military training. By the end of 1963, the number of advisors had increased to 17,000, who were joined by a growing number of American helicopter pilots. Nevertheless, the war continued to go badly for the South, which on its own seemed incapable of slowing the progress of the Viet Cong. While President Lyndon Johnson was willing to increase American involvement in Vietnam, he was aware that public opinion was not clamoring for a new war. Thus, even as his advisors drafted a resolution to give him broad power to intervene militarily in Vietnam, Johnson searched for a propitious moment to make his case. In August 1964, ambiguous and contradictory reports regarding an alleged incident between American and North Vietnamese ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is off the North Vietnamese coast, gave Johnson the pretext he needed. (On a dark and stormy night?), an American destroyer called in air support and fired upon supposed enemy vessels, though by the next day, the ship’s captain believed he had likely not been under attack. Nonetheless, Johnson exaggerated the incident into an attack on American vessels that required a military response. On August 4, President Johnson successfully requested Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave him authority “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force,” to defend US interests in Southeast Asia. 
 
Relying on the resolution, in March 1965, Johnson started sending troops to Vietnam. By July, 75,000 American troops were there, a number that kept growing until it stood at more than 500,000 by early 1968. Fighting beside the Americans were about 600,000 South Vietnamese troops, whose competence and loyalty were minimal. The US strategy combined intensive bombing of the north and ground fighting against the Viet Cong in the south. The bombing campaign, called “Operation Rolling Thunder,” eventually comprised more than a million sorties dropping 750,000 tons of bombs. However, the massive troop buildup and bombing campaign failed to weaken the will or strength of the Viet Cong and their allies in the north. Indeed, by 1967, US intelligence had determined that bombing was ineffective, but it was nonetheless continued. Infiltration of personnel and supplies down the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail continued to escalate, and regular North Vietnamese troops played a growing role in the war. By December 1967, 45% of Americans believed that the country’s involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. 
 
For the US, 1968 was the turning point in the war, as a series setbacks convinced the American people, as well as many American political leaders, that the cost of winning the war, if even possible, was simply too high. By the beginning of 1968, more than 19,000 Americans had died in Vietnam since the 1965 escalation, and 16,000 more were lost during 1968. In late January, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army launched a coordinated action, the Tet Offensive, which involved attacks on more than 100 cities and military bases, some of which they held for several weeks. Some initial successes included the penetration of downtown Saigon, the invasion of the US Embassy grounds there, and sieges at Huế and Khe Sahn. Although the offensive was beaten back and became a military disaster for the Viet Cong, which sustained crippling losses, it profoundly shocked the American public, who had been told by their political and military leaders that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were incapable of launching such a massive offensive. These reversals only strengthened the growing antiwar movement. In addition, the inability of the military leadership to present a realistic new strategy led to a growing conviction within the government that continuing the war at the current levels was no longer politically acceptable. This belief was reflected in President Johnson’s decision to restrict bombing in the north, the commencement of peace negotiations with Hanoi in Paris in May 1968, and the fact that in the 1968 presidential election both Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon campaigned for a speedy end to the war. 
 
The winner of that election, Nixon, began to withdraw US troops gradually, but public opposition to the war escalated after he ordered attacks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Viet Cong sanctuaries inside Cambodia. These attacks further destabilized those countries and led to the student protests that turned into massacres of unarmed civilians on May 14, 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio and Jackson State University in Mississippi. Other developments that crystallized the growing opposition to the war included the November 1969 revelation that American troops had massacred at least 347 civilians, including children and the elderly, in March 1968 at the village of My Lai, South Vietnam; and the June 1971 publication in the New York Times of the Pentagon Papers, a top secret Defense Department history of American involvement in Southeast Asia that contradicted much of what the government had been telling the American people.   
 
Meanwhile, peace negotiations in Paris dragged on. Finally, in January 1973, the US, North & South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a peace treaty providing for the complete withdrawal of US troops within 60 days and creating a political process for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the south. However, the Paris Agreement did not bring an end to the fighting in Vietnam. The Saigon regime made a determined effort to eliminate the Viet Cong forces remaining in the south, while northern leaders continued to strengthen their own military forces in preparation for a possible future confrontation. By late 1974 Hanoi had decided that victory could be achieved only through force of arms, and in early 1975 North Vietnamese troops launched a major offensive against the south. Saigon’s forces retreated in panic and disorder, and on April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese Army entered Saigon in triumph. The Second Indochina War was finally at an end, though with staggering losses. American losses totaled 58,209 dead, 303,635 wounded (including 153,303 who required hospitalization), and 1,948 missing in action. Tragic as they are, however, these figures pale in comparison to the estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 deaths sustained by the Vietnamese people, whose total population was far smaller than that of the US. 
 
Reunified Vietnam: 1976-present
Following the communist victory, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after the independence leader who had died in 1969. Vietnam remained theoretically divided until July 2, 1976, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was officially proclaimed, with its capital at Hanoi. Unified Vietnam faced formidable problems. In the south alone, more than one-seventh of the population had been killed or wounded, while losses in the north were comparable. The government planned to reconstruct the country by expanding industry in the north and agriculture in the south. Within two years of the communist victory, however, it became clear that Vietnam would face major difficulties in realizing its goals.
The government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the regime. Millions of people fled the country in crudely-built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis. In 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia (sparking the Cambodian-Vietnamese War), removed the Khmer Rouge from power, put a halt to its mass murders of the population there, and installed a pro-Vietnamese government in Phnom Penh. However, the invasion damaged relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam (the Sino-Vietnamese War) in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid. At this point, Vietnam found itself relatively isolated within the international community. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations opposed the occupation of Cambodia and joined with China in supporting guerrilla resistance groups. The US and other Western countries imposed an economic trade embargo on Vietnam. Only the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe stood by Vietnam. 
 
In a historic shift in 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation), which were inspired by the contemporaneous Soviet reforms known as perestroika (restructuring). Although the authority of the state remained unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged. The economy of Vietnam has since achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment.

 

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Vietnam's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Vietnam

Between 1954 and 1975, the US had close relations with South Vietnam, which was a client state of the US, and was fighting an undeclared war with North Vietnam. Between 1975 and 1995, relations between the reunified Vietnam and the US were hostile, though they thawed gradually following Vietnam’s decision in 1986 to reform its economic and political policies. In 1995, President Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. As diplomatic ties between the nations grew, the United States opened a consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam opened a consulate in San Francisco. 

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Current U.S. Relations with Vietnam

US relations with Vietnam have become increasingly cooperative and broad-based in the years since 1995. A series of bilateral summits have helped improve ties, including President Bush’s visit to Hanoi in November 2006, President Triet’s visit to Washington in June 2007, and Prime Minister Dung’s visit to Washington in June 2008. The two countries hold an annual dialogue on human rights, resumed in 2006 after a two-year hiatus. They signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000, which went into force in December 2001. In 2003, the two countries signed a Counternarcotics Letter of Agreement, a Civil Aviation Agreement, and a textile agreement. In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam. In October 2008, the US and Vietnam held political-military talks and policy planning talks to consult on regional security and strategic issues. Bilateral diplomatic engagement expanded at ASEAN and APEC, and with Vietnam’s January 2008 start of a two-year term on the UN Security Council. 

 
Vietnam’s suppression of political dissent continued to be the main issue of contention in relations with the US, drawing criticism from the administration and Congress. In contrast, Vietnam has continued to make significant progress on expanding religious freedom. In 2005, Vietnam passed comprehensive religious freedom legislation, outlawing forced renunciations and permitting the official recognition of new denominations. As a result, in November 2006, the Department of State lifted the designation of Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern,” based on a determination that the country was no longer a serious violator of religious freedoms, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act. The government’s harassment of certain religious leaders for their political activism, including leaders of the outlawed United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, remains an ongoing source of US concern. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 1,122,528 people identified themselves as being of Vietnamese ancestry. The first wave of Vietnamese immigrants came on April 18, 1975, two weeks before the fall of Saigon, when President Ford authorized the entry of 125,000 South Vietnamese refugees. This first group was primarily comprised of the elite of the country who had close ties to the American military. Between 1980 and 1981, 181,300 Vietnamese immigrated to the US, fleeing further regional instability when Vietnam became involved in simultaneous wars with Cambodia and China in 1979. Unlike the first wave, this second wave mostly came from a rural background, and was one of the least educated immigrant groups to enter the U.S. in the 20th century. Immigration continued at a steady rate, though it never reached 1981 and 1982 levels. The majority of Vietnamese Americans live in California, though Texas, Virginia, Washington, Florida, New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania all have sizable Vietnamese populations. Vietnamese constitute the third largest group of East Asians in America, after Chinese and Filipinos.
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Where Does the Money Flow

Agriculture is by far the most important economic sector in Vietnam. The great majority of the population earns its income from farming. In addition, agriculture is the main source of raw materials for the processing industries and a major contributor to exports; by the late 1980s Vietnam was again exporting rice after years of shortages. The export of such seafood as shrimp, squid, crab, and lobster has become a growing source of foreign exchange. There also has been an increase in the number of commercial shrimp farms. The fledgling petroleum industry has grown steadily since oil extraction began in 1986. Food processing is the largest industrial activity in Vietnam. Seafood is processed for export, while coffee and tea are processed both for export and for domestic consumption. Beverages and a variety of condiments also are produced in significant quantities. Textiles are of increasing importance; silk production was revived in the 1990s after a period of decline. 

 
Trade between the US and Vietnam is substantial and tilted toward Vietnam. In 2008, US exports to Vietnam totaled $2.7 billion dollars, led by agricultural products ($604.3 million or 21.6%); motor vehicles and parts ($321.1 million or 11.5%); computers and telecommunications equipment ($257.8 million or 9.2%); plastics and chemicals ($233.4 million or 8.3%); industrial machinery ($211.2 million or 7.5%); and raw cotton ($192.3 million or 6.9%). US imports from Vietnam came to $12.9 billion, dominated by cotton apparel and household goods ($3.1 billion or 24.3%); non-cotton apparel and household goods ($2 billion or 15.7%); furniture and other household items ($1.6 billion or 12.9%); agricultural products ($1.4 billion or 11.4%); footwear, sporting and camping apparel ($1.3 billion or 10.8%); and crude oil ($1 billion or 8.4%).
 
The U.S. gave $73.9 million in aid to Vietnam in 2007. The budget allotted the most funds to the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative ($62.9 million), Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($3.2 million), and Trade and Investment ($2.5 million). The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $102.3 million. The 2009 budget request will retain aid at higher levels, at $99.5 million, and will distribute the most aid to the Global HIV/AID Initiative ($86.0 million), Trade and Investment ($3.1 million), Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($1.9 million), and Private Sector Competitiveness ($1.8 million).
 
Vietnam: Security Assistance (the U.S. sold $1.9 million of defense articles and services to Vietnam in 2007)
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Controversies

Students discuss the VKC flag controversy (by Kate Mather, Daily Trojan)

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Human Rights

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), which monopolizes political power. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in May 2007, were neither free nor fair, since all candidates were vetted by the CPV. Civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. 

 
The government’s human rights record is unsatisfactory. Citizens cannot change their government, political opposition movements are prohibited, and religious freedom is not always respected. In fact, although there are some limitations in religious practice in Vietnam, the situation overall is mixed. Foreign missionaries are not allowed to proselytize or perform religious activities, and no other religions than the eight registered ones are allowed to propagate. However, legal preachers and religious associations working in Vietnam today are aided by the government, which is not anti-religion per se. Indeed, due to recent improvements in liberty of religion, the United States no longer considers Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern
 
The government suppresses dissent and arrests dissident political activists. Police sometimes abuse suspects during arrest, detention, and interrogation. Corruption is a significant problem in the police force, and police officers sometimes act with impunity. Prison conditions are often severe. Individuals are arbitrarily detained for political activities and denied the right to fair and expeditious trials.  The government limits citizens’ privacy rights and exercises tight controls over the press and freedom of speech, assembly, movement, and association. Independent human rights organizations are also prohibited. Violence and discrimination against women remain a concern. Trafficking in persons continues to be a significant problem. Some ethnic minority groups suffer societal discrimination, such as the ethnic Khmer in the Mekong River delta region and the Montagnards near Laos. The government limits workers’ rights and has arrested or harassed several labor activists.
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. However, the government restricts these freedoms, particularly with respect to speech that criticizes individual government leaders, promotes political pluralism or multiparty democracy, or questions policies on sensitive matters such as human rights, religious freedom, or border disputes with China. The CPV controls all print, broadcast, and electronic media. The government supplements this control through pervasive party guidance and national security legislation ensuring effective self-censorship by the domestic media. For example, the law requires journalists to pay monetary damages to individuals or organizations who have their reputations harmed as a result of journalists’ reporting, even if the reports are true; this severely hampers investigative reporting. Despite the continued growth of Internet blogs, there was a general crackdown on press freedom throughout 2007, resulting in the firings of several senior media editors and the arrest of two reporters; similar firings occurred in January 2009 as well. These actions dampened what had previously been a trend toward more aggressive investigative reporting. In December 2007, the government issued new regulations prohibiting bloggers from posting material that the government believes undermines national security or discloses state secrets, incites violence or crimes, or includes inaccurate information harming the reputation of individuals and organizations. The new regulations also require global Internet companies with (blogging platforms?) operating in the country to report to the government every six months and, if requested, to provide information about individual bloggers. 
 
Nevertheless, the press does report on topics that are considered sensitive, such as corruption among high ranking CPV and government officials, as well as occasional criticism of officials and official associations. However, the freedom to criticize the CPV and its senior leadership remains restricted. Foreign language editions of some banned books are sold openly by street peddlers and in shops oriented to tourists, and foreign language periodicals are widely available in cities. Occasionally however, the government has censored articles. 
 
Although the law limits access to satellite television to top officials, foreigners, luxury hotels, and the press, in practice, persons throughout the country were able to access foreign programming via home satellite equipment or cable. Cable television, including foreign-origin channels, was widely available to subscribers living in urban areas.
 
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Debate

The question of whether the Vietnamese government has continued to imprison American servicemen since the end of the war continues to be debated, though a Senate Select Committee on the subject, led by three Vietnam veteran Senators (John Kerry, John McCain and Robert Smith) found “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”

 
The Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database (United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs)
 An Enormous Crime (by Bill Hendon).
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Past Ambassadors

Donald R. Heath

Appointment: Jun 29, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 22, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 14, 1954
Note: Promoted to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary when the Legation in Saigon was raised to Embassy status, June 25, 1952. Also accredited to Cambodia and Laos; resident at Saigon. He also served as Director of Political Affairs for the American military government in Germany from 1945 to 1947; Minister to Bulgaria from 1947 to 1950; Ambassador to Lebanon, from 1955 to 1957; and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, from 1958 to 1961.
 
G. Frederick Reinhardt
Appointment: Apr 20, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: May 28, 1955
Termination of Mission: Reaccredited when Vietnam became a republic; presented new credentials on Feb 24, 1956; left post Feb 10, 1957.
Note: He also served as Ambassador to the United Arab Republic (a union of Syria and Egypt that lasted from 1958 to 1961) from 1960 to 1961, and to Italy from 1961 to 1968.
 
Elbridge Durbrow
Appointment: Mar 14, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 16, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post May 3, 1961
 
Frederick E. Nolting, Jr.
Appointment: Mar 15, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: May 10, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 15, 1963
 
Henry Cabot Lodge
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Aug 1, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 26, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 28, 1964
Note: He also served as a member of Massachusetts state house of representatives from 1933 to 1936; US Senator from Massachusetts from 1937 to 1944 and 1947 to 1953; US Representative to United Nations from 1953 to 1960; Republican candidate for Vice President, 1960; Ambassador to Vietnam from 1965 to 1967; and to Germany from 1968 1969.
 
Maxwell D. Taylor
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Jul 1, 1964
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 14, 1964
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 30, 1965
Note: Taylor also served as Superintendent of West Point Military Academy from 1945 to 1949; US Commander in Berlin from 1949 to 1951; US Army Chief of Staff from 1955 to 1959; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1962 to 1964. 
 
Henry Cabot Lodge
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Jul 31, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 25, 1967
Note: He also served as a member of Massachusetts state house of representatives from 1933 to 1936; US Senator from Massachusetts from 1937 to 1944 and 1947 to 1953; US Representative to United Nations from 1953 to 1960; Republican candidate for Vice President, 1960; Ambassador to Vietnam from 1963 to 1964; and to Germany from 1968 1969.
 
Ellsworth Bunker
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Apr 5, 1967
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 28, 1967
Termination of Mission: Left post May 11, 1973
Note: Though not a career foreign service officer, Bunker was an experienced diplomat. He served as ambassador to Italy from 1952 to 1953, India from 1956 to 1961, the Organization of American States from 1964 to 1966, and South Vietnam from 1967 to 1973. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and 1967. 
 
Graham A. Martin
Appointment: Jun 21, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 20, 1973
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 29, 1975
Note: He also served as Ambassador to Thailand from 1963 to 1967 and Italy from 1969 to 1973.
 
Special Note: The Embassy in Saigon was closed and all Embassy personnel evacuated on April 29, 1975, just prior to the surrender of South Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces. The US did not have diplomatic relations with reunified Vietnam for twenty years. Finally, on January 28, 1995, the US opened a Liaison Office in Hanoi. Diplomatic relations were established July 11, 1995, and Embassy Hanoi was established with L. Desaix Anderson as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
 
Douglas “Pete” Peterson
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Apr 11, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: May 14, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 15, 2001
Note: An earlier nomination of May 23, 1996, was not acted upon by the Senate.
Note: Peterson served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War, and spent more than six years (September 10, 1966–March 4, 1973) as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. He also served as US Representative from Florida’s 2nd District from 1991 to 1997. 
 
Raymond Burghardt
Appointment: Nov 28, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 5, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Sep 5, 2004
 
Michael W. Marine
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 27, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 17, 2007
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Vietnam's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Phung, Le Cong

Le Cong Phung, a career diplomat, was born on February 20, 1948 in Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam. He graduated from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s School of Diplomacy in Hanoi in 1971. During his 37-year career, Ambassador Le Cong Phung served in various foreign service posts in England (1974-1977), China (1978-1980), Indonesia (1984-1987) and as Ambassador to Thailand (1993-1997). He served as Assistant Foreign Minister from 1999 until 2000. From 2000 through 2004, he acted as Chairman of the Committee on Border Affairs and as Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO. He served as Deputy Foreign Minister between 2001 and 2004. Prior to becoming ambassador to the US, Phung was the First Deputy Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ second ranking official, assisting Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in the conduct of Vietnam’s foreign policy. He was appointed by President Nguyen Minh Triet as Ambassador to the US in October 2007. He speaks fluent English and French.

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Vietnam's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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Comments

Nilesh 1 year ago
Please live together in peace, I am Vietnamese and i am in South Vietnamese Navy back in 1972, I used to hate the North Vietnamese, beascue I lost most everything family,friends,home,and country even in jail somtime before escape to USA.Now I hope we can try to be peace with together and I try very hard to forget forgive, if we can do that then we have a chance to built better Vietnam in the future,but now no way if only ONE VIETNAM=ONE GOVERNMENT=ONE SYSTEMS then people will have no future

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U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

Shear, David
ambassador-image

It took almost eight months after his nomination, but veteran Foreign Service officer David B. Shear officially became the ambassador to Vietnam, on August 4, 2011. Shear’s appointment was held up after Senators from both parties placed multiple holds on the diplomat’s confirmation, to protest problems that Americans have had with adopting orphans from Vietnam.

 
Shear graduated from Earlham College in 1975 and has a master’s degree in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1983. He has attended Waseda University, Taiwan National University and the Johns Hopkins Nanjing Center (1987)
He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and his assignments have concentrated heavily on Asia.
 
Shear was a Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s institute for the Study of Diplomacy 1998-1999.
 
He has served in Sapporo and Tokyo (2001-2005), Japan, Beijing, China, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he was deputy chief of mission from 2005 to 2008.
 
In Washington, he has worked in the State Department’s Offices of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Affairs and as the special assistant to the under secretary for political affairs.
 
He was director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs in 2008-2009 and served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2009-2011.
 
Shear has a first degree rank in the practice of Kendo, or Japanese sword fighting. He speaks Chinese and Japanese. He and his wife, Barbara (who also has has a first degree rank in Kendo), have one daughter.
 
Official Biography (State Department)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

Michalak, Michael
ambassador-image

Michael W. Michalak, was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1946. He earned a BS in physics from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, in 1969, and an MS in the same field from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in 1971. He received a second Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1981. A career Foreign Service Officer since 1972, Michalak has worked in Tokyo, Japan; Sydney, Australia; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Beijing, China; as well as Washington, DC, where he was assigned to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Office for Japan and the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. He received a group award for valor for his actions in time of crisis when the US Embassy in Islamabad was burned down. Prior to becoming Ambassador to Vietnam, Michalak served as the US Senior Official to APEC, Bureau of East Asia Pacific Affairs, from 2005 to 2007. He was sworn in as Ambassador to Vietnam on August 10, 2007. He speaks Chinese and Japanese. 

 

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Overview

Location of the longest war in American history, where nearly 60,000 American lost their lives, Vietnam has a long tradition of resistance to foreign powers seeking to influence its affairs. The Vietnamese achieved independence after 1,000 years of Chinese rule, and in the 19th century endured over 80 years of French imperial domination before expelling them. Though much of the country is hilly and even mountainous, rich agricultural land in the north and south are capable of feeding the populace. 

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Basic Information

Lay of the Land: Over 1,000 miles in length from north to south, Vietnam forms the eastern edge of the Indochinese Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos and Cambodia to the west, the Gulf of Thailand to the south and west, and the South China Sea to the east. Vietnam has an area of 128,527 square miles, slightly larger than the state of New Mexico, or almost the size of Germany.   Except for the coastal plains and two major river deltas – the Red River in the north and the Mekong in the far south – most of the country is dominated by the Annamese Cordillera mountain range. Specifically, level land covers no more than 20% of the country, while mountains account for 40%, and smaller hills another 40%. Tropical forests cover 42% of Vietnam, mountains and flatlands alike. Vietnam’s capital is Hanoi, with a population of 3.4 million, while the largest city is Ho Chi Minh City (which under the name Saigon was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina from 1864 to 1948, and of South Vietnam from 1955 to 1975), where 6.6 million Vietnamese live.  

 
Population: 86.1 million
 
Religions: Buddhist (usually an amalgam of Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism) 48.5%, non-religious 12.6%, Catholic 9.3%, Cao Dai 2.5%, Hoa Hao 2.4%, Protestant 1.5%, Muslim 0.1%.
 
Ethnic Groups: Kinh (Viet) 86.2%, Tay 1.9%, Thai 1.7%, Muong 1.5%, Khome 1.4%, Hoa 1.1%, Nun 1.1%, Hmong 1%, others 4.1%.
 
Languages: Vietnamese (official) 79.6%, Tày 1.8%, Muong 1.4%, Central Khmer 1.3%, Nung 1.0%, Yue Chinese 1.0%, Jarai 0.4%, Bahnar 0.2%. There are 102 living languages in Vietnam.

 

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History
Vietnam's identity has been shaped by long-running conflicts, both internally and with foreign forces. In 111 BC, China’s Han dynasty conquered the Red River Delta in northern Vietnam. China ruled Vietnam for the next 1,000 years, inculcating it with Confucian ideas and political culture, but also leaving a strong tradition of resistance to foreign occupation. In 939 AD, Vietnam achieved independence under a native dynasty. After 1471, when Vietnam conquered the Champa Kingdom in what is now central Vietnam, the Vietnamese moved gradually southward. They finally reached the agriculturally rich Mekong Delta, where they encountered previously settled communities of Cham and Cambodians. 
 
As Vietnam’s Le dynasty declined, powerful northern and southern families, the Trinh and Nguyen, fought civil wars in the 17th and 18th centuries. A peasant revolt originating in the Tay Son region of central Vietnam defeated both the Nguyen and the Trinh and unified the country at the end of the 18th century. However, a surviving member of the Nguyen family suppressed this revolt, thus founding the Nguyen dynasty as Emperor Gia Long in 1802.
 
Western penetration into Vietnam
In 1516 Portuguese adventurers arriving by sea inaugurated the era of Western penetration into Vietnam. Though they were followed by missionaries and traders over the next two centuries, by the end of the 17th century the rival Trinh and Nguyen states had lost interest in maintaining relations with European countries. By the middle of the nineteenth century, a succession of anti-Western emperors expelled foreign, mainly French, missionaries, in an attempt to eliminate foreign influence. In response, France invaded Vietnam in 1858 and controlled the Southern third of the country by 1862, naming their colony Cochinchina, with a capital in Saigon. By 1885 the French had conquered all of Vietnam, which they divided into three colonies: Cochinchina in the south, Tonkin in the north, and Annam in between. All of which became part of French Indochina in 1887, along with Cambodia and, in 1893, Laos. 
 
Movements of national liberation: 1887 - 1954
The independence movement in Vietnam started with the establishment of French rule. Many local officials refused to collaborate with the French, and some led guerrilla groups in attacks on French outposts. A new national movement arose in the early 20th century, but was suppressed by the French with the help of China. Finally, between 1930 and 1945, Ho Chi Minh succeeded in making his Indochinese Communist Party the leading movement for national liberation against French imperialism. Born in 1890, Ho was the outstanding figure in 20th century Vietnamese history. As a young seaman, Ho Chi Minh traveled widely, living in New York and Boston in 1912 and 1913, London between 1913 and 1917, and settling in Paris in 1917, where he began an intensive study of history and politics. Inspired by the US Declaration of Independence and by President Woodrow Wilson’s speeches favoring national self-determination, in 1918 Ho petitioned Wilson at the Versailles Peace Conference to persuade the French government to grant Vietnam democratic governance and other reforms—but not independence. However, Wilson ignored him. A few years later, in 1921, Ho became a founding member of the Communist Party of France, reckoning—correctly as it turned out—that the Soviet Union would be more likely to assist Vietnamese independence than the US would. Indeed, Ho once admitted that, “It was patriotism, not communism, that inspired me.” A self-professed admirer of French language and culture, Ho spent the 1920s and 1930s in China, Russia and Western Europe, finally returning to Vietnam in 1941, where he quickly became the leader of its independence movement, fighting both the French and the Japanese. 
 
The exploitative political economy of French rule in Vietnam explains the eventual success of Ho’s communist movement in two ways. First, politically French rule was entirely autocratic, employing French administrators for all but the most minor functions, extending no civil liberties to the native population, and brutally crushing dissent. Second, economically French colonial capitalism was overwhelmingly exploitative of the Vietnamese. The French created a plantation economy in Vietnam, concentrating landownership among a small number of nearly feudal landholders, while the mass of peasants owned little or no land. Further, the French excluded the Vietnamese from participation in the limited development of modern industry and trade. Whatever economic progress Vietnam made, benefited only the French and the small class of wealthy Vietnamese landlords the colonial regime created. As a result, no property-owning indigenous middle class developed in colonial Vietnam. Thus, capitalism manifested itself to the Vietnamese as an exploitative system of foreign rule which benefitted them little or not at all. The Vietnamese had little to no stake in either the colonial government or in capitalism, whose exploitative nature they viewed as part and parcel of French rule. 
 
Ho’s Communist Party cemented its positive reputation during the Japanese occupation of World War II. At that time, Indochina was a French-administered possession of Japan, hosting about 30,000 Japanese troops. Shortly after his return to Vietnam in 1941, Ho Chi Minh formed a broad nationalist alliance called the League for the Independence of Vietnam (the “Viet Minh”), which the communist party dominated. The Viet Minh provided the Allies information on Japanese troop movements in Indochina, and sought recognition as the legitimate representative of the Vietnamese people. Indeed, in early 1945 the American OSS (the precursor of the CIA) armed and trained Viet Minh guerillas, and an American medic provided critical treatment for Ho’s malaria, probably saving his life. When the Japanese surrendered in August 1945, the Viet Minh led a general uprising and seized power in Hanoi. On September 2, the Viet Minh issued the Vietnamese Declaration of Independence, in which Ho quoted the American Declaration of Independence and once again actively sought American support. Bao Dai, the Vietnamese puppet emperor, quickly abdicated and declared his loyalty to the newly proclaimed Democratic Republic of Vietnam. 
 
The French, however, were determined to restore their power in Indochina and seized control of the Cochinchina region around Saigon. Thus, at the beginning of 1946, Vietnam was divided between a Vietnamese led north and a foreign dominated south, a situation that was to last for nearly thirty years. 
 
The First Indochina War
Negotiations between the French and Ho Chi Minh led to an agreement in March 1946. The Viet Minh agreed to delay full independence if France would recognize the Viet Minh government as a free state within the French Union (the successor to the French Empire) and withdraw its troops over five years. The French abrogated the agreement as early as June, when Georges-Thierry d’Argenlieu, the high commissioner for Indochina, proclaimed Cochin China an autonomous republic. In November, the French navy bombarded Haiphong, the large port city outside of Hanoi, causing thousands of civilian casualties, and the Viet Minh responded by attacking French troops in Hanoi.
 
Although the French were initially confident of victory, they ignored the underlying cause of the war—the desire of the Vietnamese people, regardless of their politics, to achieve unity and independence for their country. French efforts to co-opt these aspirations were devious and ineffective. The French reunited Cochinchina with the rest of Vietnam in 1949, proclaimed the Associated State of Vietnam, and appointed the former emperor Bao Dai as chief of state. Most nationalists denounced these maneuvers, and the Viet Minh retained their leadership of the independence struggle. 
 
Meanwhile, the Viet Minh waged an increasingly successful guerrilla war, aided after 1949 by the new communist government of China. The US, fearing what it interpreted as the spread of communism in Asia, gave million of dollars to the French, and was eventually paying for 80% of the war’s cost. However, faced with a growing antiwar movement in France, and shaken by the fall of the garrison at Dien Bien Phu, North Vietnam in May 1954, the French government agreed to an armistice in 1954. 
 
Between the Wars: 1954–1960
The agreements concluded in Geneva between April and July 1954 (the Geneva Accords), signed by French and Viet Minh representatives. The agreement provided for a cease-fire, a temporary division of the country into two military zones (north and south), and nationwide, internationally supervised elections for July 1956. They also expressly forbade interference in Vietnam by foreign powers. All Viet Minh forces withdrew north of the 17th parallel, and all French and Associated State of Vietnam troops remained south of it. An international commission was established to supervise execution of the agreement, including the elections. South Vietnamese Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem soon toppled Emperor Bao Dai in a fraudulent referendum and proclaimed himself president. Because the Viet Minh appeared certain to win the elections, Diem, supported by the US, refused to hold them, despite repeated calls from the North for talks to discuss elections. 
 
The two Vietnams now began to reconstruct their war-ravaged country. With assistance from China and the Soviet Union, North Vietnam began an ambitious program of industrialization and agricultural reform, which was nevertheless unpopular with their people. In the south, however, Diem’s early success in consolidating power failed to yield concrete political and economic achievements. Entrenched interests sabotaged land reform, and the regime, with US financial backing, instead focused its energies on building up the military and security forces to counter the still-influential Viet Minh. Diem used authoritarian methods against all whom he regarded as opponents, and discriminated against non-Catholics (Diem was Catholic), despite the fact that Catholicism was a minority faith. Diem made loyalty to himself and his family paramount, while his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, founded an elitist party to spy on officials, army officers, and prominent local citizens. 
 
Meanwhile, with support from the north, an indigenous opposition movement, called the National Liberation Front or Viet Cong, launched an insurgency to topple the South Vietnamese government and reunify the country. The deaths of eight unarmed Buddhist civilians on May 8, 1963, in the city of Huế, South Vietnam, at the hands of government security forces, only worsened Diem’s troubles. The army and police had fired guns and launched grenades into a crowd of Buddhists who were protesting a government ban on flying the Buddhist flag on the day of Vesak, which commemorates the birth of Gautama Buddha. Diem’s clumsy attempt to blame the Viet Cong for the incident led to growing discontent among the Buddhist majority. By late 1963, the Viet Cong insurrection appeared close to succeeding, when the South Vietnamese army, with the implicit approval of the US, overthrew and killed Diem in a November 1963 coup d’état. 
 
The new government, however, was no more effective than its predecessor. A period of political instability followed, until the military seized control in June 1965. The military government restricted civil liberties, labeled political opponents communists and imprisoned them, and allowed political parties to operate only if they did not openly criticize government policy. These tendencies and policies remained in effect through the fall of Saigon in 1975, meaning that South Vietnam was no more free or democratic than North Vietnam. South Vietnam was also incompetent in its fight with the Viet Cong. Aided by a steady infiltration of weapons and advisers along the “Ho Chi Minh trail” from the north, Viet Cong fighting strength grew from about 30,000 men in 1963 to about 150,000 in 1965 when, according to American intelligence analysts, the survival of the Saigon regime was seriously threatened.   
 
The Second Indochina War: The US in Vietnam, 1960-1975
Until 1960 US support for the South Vietnam was limited to money, military equipment and 700 advisers for military training. By the end of 1963, the number of advisors had increased to 17,000, who were joined by a growing number of American helicopter pilots. Nevertheless, the war continued to go badly for the South, which on its own seemed incapable of slowing the progress of the Viet Cong. While President Lyndon Johnson was willing to increase American involvement in Vietnam, he was aware that public opinion was not clamoring for a new war. Thus, even as his advisors drafted a resolution to give him broad power to intervene militarily in Vietnam, Johnson searched for a propitious moment to make his case. In August 1964, ambiguous and contradictory reports regarding an alleged incident between American and North Vietnamese ships in the Gulf of Tonkin, which is off the North Vietnamese coast, gave Johnson the pretext he needed. (On a dark and stormy night?), an American destroyer called in air support and fired upon supposed enemy vessels, though by the next day, the ship’s captain believed he had likely not been under attack. Nonetheless, Johnson exaggerated the incident into an attack on American vessels that required a military response. On August 4, President Johnson successfully requested Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave him authority “to take all necessary steps, including the use of armed force,” to defend US interests in Southeast Asia. 
 
Relying on the resolution, in March 1965, Johnson started sending troops to Vietnam. By July, 75,000 American troops were there, a number that kept growing until it stood at more than 500,000 by early 1968. Fighting beside the Americans were about 600,000 South Vietnamese troops, whose competence and loyalty were minimal. The US strategy combined intensive bombing of the north and ground fighting against the Viet Cong in the south. The bombing campaign, called “Operation Rolling Thunder,” eventually comprised more than a million sorties dropping 750,000 tons of bombs. However, the massive troop buildup and bombing campaign failed to weaken the will or strength of the Viet Cong and their allies in the north. Indeed, by 1967, US intelligence had determined that bombing was ineffective, but it was nonetheless continued. Infiltration of personnel and supplies down the famous Ho Chi Minh Trail continued to escalate, and regular North Vietnamese troops played a growing role in the war. By December 1967, 45% of Americans believed that the country’s involvement in Vietnam was a mistake. 
 
For the US, 1968 was the turning point in the war, as a series setbacks convinced the American people, as well as many American political leaders, that the cost of winning the war, if even possible, was simply too high. By the beginning of 1968, more than 19,000 Americans had died in Vietnam since the 1965 escalation, and 16,000 more were lost during 1968. In late January, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese Army launched a coordinated action, the Tet Offensive, which involved attacks on more than 100 cities and military bases, some of which they held for several weeks. Some initial successes included the penetration of downtown Saigon, the invasion of the US Embassy grounds there, and sieges at Huế and Khe Sahn. Although the offensive was beaten back and became a military disaster for the Viet Cong, which sustained crippling losses, it profoundly shocked the American public, who had been told by their political and military leaders that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were incapable of launching such a massive offensive. These reversals only strengthened the growing antiwar movement. In addition, the inability of the military leadership to present a realistic new strategy led to a growing conviction within the government that continuing the war at the current levels was no longer politically acceptable. This belief was reflected in President Johnson’s decision to restrict bombing in the north, the commencement of peace negotiations with Hanoi in Paris in May 1968, and the fact that in the 1968 presidential election both Democrat Hubert Humphrey and Republican Richard Nixon campaigned for a speedy end to the war. 
 
The winner of that election, Nixon, began to withdraw US troops gradually, but public opposition to the war escalated after he ordered attacks on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos and Viet Cong sanctuaries inside Cambodia. These attacks further destabilized those countries and led to the student protests that turned into massacres of unarmed civilians on May 14, 1970 at Kent State University in Ohio and Jackson State University in Mississippi. Other developments that crystallized the growing opposition to the war included the November 1969 revelation that American troops had massacred at least 347 civilians, including children and the elderly, in March 1968 at the village of My Lai, South Vietnam; and the June 1971 publication in the New York Times of the Pentagon Papers, a top secret Defense Department history of American involvement in Southeast Asia that contradicted much of what the government had been telling the American people.   
 
Meanwhile, peace negotiations in Paris dragged on. Finally, in January 1973, the US, North & South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong signed a peace treaty providing for the complete withdrawal of US troops within 60 days and creating a political process for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the south. However, the Paris Agreement did not bring an end to the fighting in Vietnam. The Saigon regime made a determined effort to eliminate the Viet Cong forces remaining in the south, while northern leaders continued to strengthen their own military forces in preparation for a possible future confrontation. By late 1974 Hanoi had decided that victory could be achieved only through force of arms, and in early 1975 North Vietnamese troops launched a major offensive against the south. Saigon’s forces retreated in panic and disorder, and on April 30, 1975, the North Vietnamese Army entered Saigon in triumph. The Second Indochina War was finally at an end, though with staggering losses. American losses totaled 58,209 dead, 303,635 wounded (including 153,303 who required hospitalization), and 1,948 missing in action. Tragic as they are, however, these figures pale in comparison to the estimated 500,000 to 2,000,000 deaths sustained by the Vietnamese people, whose total population was far smaller than that of the US. 
 
Reunified Vietnam: 1976-present
Following the communist victory, Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, after the independence leader who had died in 1969. Vietnam remained theoretically divided until July 2, 1976, when the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was officially proclaimed, with its capital at Hanoi. Unified Vietnam faced formidable problems. In the south alone, more than one-seventh of the population had been killed or wounded, while losses in the north were comparable. The government planned to reconstruct the country by expanding industry in the north and agriculture in the south. Within two years of the communist victory, however, it became clear that Vietnam would face major difficulties in realizing its goals.
The government embarked on a mass campaign of collectivization of farms and factories. Reconstruction of the war-ravaged country was slow, and serious humanitarian and economic problems confronted the regime. Millions of people fled the country in crudely-built boats, creating an international humanitarian crisis. In 1978, the Vietnamese army invaded Cambodia (sparking the Cambodian-Vietnamese War), removed the Khmer Rouge from power, put a halt to its mass murders of the population there, and installed a pro-Vietnamese government in Phnom Penh. However, the invasion damaged relations with China, which launched a brief incursion into northern Vietnam (the Sino-Vietnamese War) in 1979. This conflict caused Vietnam to rely even more heavily on Soviet economic and military aid. At this point, Vietnam found itself relatively isolated within the international community. The members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations opposed the occupation of Cambodia and joined with China in supporting guerrilla resistance groups. The US and other Western countries imposed an economic trade embargo on Vietnam. Only the Soviet Union and its allies in Eastern Europe stood by Vietnam. 
 
In a historic shift in 1986, the Communist Party of Vietnam implemented free-market reforms known as Đổi Mới (renovation), which were inspired by the contemporaneous Soviet reforms known as perestroika (restructuring). Although the authority of the state remained unchallenged, private ownership of farms and companies, deregulation and foreign investment were encouraged. The economy of Vietnam has since achieved rapid growth in agricultural and industrial production, construction and housing, exports and foreign investment.

 

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Vietnam's Newspapers
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History of U.S. Relations with Vietnam

Between 1954 and 1975, the US had close relations with South Vietnam, which was a client state of the US, and was fighting an undeclared war with North Vietnam. Between 1975 and 1995, relations between the reunified Vietnam and the US were hostile, though they thawed gradually following Vietnam’s decision in 1986 to reform its economic and political policies. In 1995, President Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. As diplomatic ties between the nations grew, the United States opened a consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam opened a consulate in San Francisco. 

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Current U.S. Relations with Vietnam

US relations with Vietnam have become increasingly cooperative and broad-based in the years since 1995. A series of bilateral summits have helped improve ties, including President Bush’s visit to Hanoi in November 2006, President Triet’s visit to Washington in June 2007, and Prime Minister Dung’s visit to Washington in June 2008. The two countries hold an annual dialogue on human rights, resumed in 2006 after a two-year hiatus. They signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000, which went into force in December 2001. In 2003, the two countries signed a Counternarcotics Letter of Agreement, a Civil Aviation Agreement, and a textile agreement. In January 2007, Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam. In October 2008, the US and Vietnam held political-military talks and policy planning talks to consult on regional security and strategic issues. Bilateral diplomatic engagement expanded at ASEAN and APEC, and with Vietnam’s January 2008 start of a two-year term on the UN Security Council. 

 
Vietnam’s suppression of political dissent continued to be the main issue of contention in relations with the US, drawing criticism from the administration and Congress. In contrast, Vietnam has continued to make significant progress on expanding religious freedom. In 2005, Vietnam passed comprehensive religious freedom legislation, outlawing forced renunciations and permitting the official recognition of new denominations. As a result, in November 2006, the Department of State lifted the designation of Vietnam as a “Country of Particular Concern,” based on a determination that the country was no longer a serious violator of religious freedoms, as defined by the International Religious Freedom Act. The government’s harassment of certain religious leaders for their political activism, including leaders of the outlawed United Buddhist Church of Vietnam, remains an ongoing source of US concern. According to the 2000 U.S. census, 1,122,528 people identified themselves as being of Vietnamese ancestry. The first wave of Vietnamese immigrants came on April 18, 1975, two weeks before the fall of Saigon, when President Ford authorized the entry of 125,000 South Vietnamese refugees. This first group was primarily comprised of the elite of the country who had close ties to the American military. Between 1980 and 1981, 181,300 Vietnamese immigrated to the US, fleeing further regional instability when Vietnam became involved in simultaneous wars with Cambodia and China in 1979. Unlike the first wave, this second wave mostly came from a rural background, and was one of the least educated immigrant groups to enter the U.S. in the 20th century. Immigration continued at a steady rate, though it never reached 1981 and 1982 levels. The majority of Vietnamese Americans live in California, though Texas, Virginia, Washington, Florida, New York, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania all have sizable Vietnamese populations. Vietnamese constitute the third largest group of East Asians in America, after Chinese and Filipinos.
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Where Does the Money Flow

Agriculture is by far the most important economic sector in Vietnam. The great majority of the population earns its income from farming. In addition, agriculture is the main source of raw materials for the processing industries and a major contributor to exports; by the late 1980s Vietnam was again exporting rice after years of shortages. The export of such seafood as shrimp, squid, crab, and lobster has become a growing source of foreign exchange. There also has been an increase in the number of commercial shrimp farms. The fledgling petroleum industry has grown steadily since oil extraction began in 1986. Food processing is the largest industrial activity in Vietnam. Seafood is processed for export, while coffee and tea are processed both for export and for domestic consumption. Beverages and a variety of condiments also are produced in significant quantities. Textiles are of increasing importance; silk production was revived in the 1990s after a period of decline. 

 
Trade between the US and Vietnam is substantial and tilted toward Vietnam. In 2008, US exports to Vietnam totaled $2.7 billion dollars, led by agricultural products ($604.3 million or 21.6%); motor vehicles and parts ($321.1 million or 11.5%); computers and telecommunications equipment ($257.8 million or 9.2%); plastics and chemicals ($233.4 million or 8.3%); industrial machinery ($211.2 million or 7.5%); and raw cotton ($192.3 million or 6.9%). US imports from Vietnam came to $12.9 billion, dominated by cotton apparel and household goods ($3.1 billion or 24.3%); non-cotton apparel and household goods ($2 billion or 15.7%); furniture and other household items ($1.6 billion or 12.9%); agricultural products ($1.4 billion or 11.4%); footwear, sporting and camping apparel ($1.3 billion or 10.8%); and crude oil ($1 billion or 8.4%).
 
The U.S. gave $73.9 million in aid to Vietnam in 2007. The budget allotted the most funds to the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative ($62.9 million), Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($3.2 million), and Trade and Investment ($2.5 million). The 2008 budget estimate increased aid to $102.3 million. The 2009 budget request will retain aid at higher levels, at $99.5 million, and will distribute the most aid to the Global HIV/AID Initiative ($86.0 million), Trade and Investment ($3.1 million), Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs ($1.9 million), and Private Sector Competitiveness ($1.8 million).
 
Vietnam: Security Assistance (the U.S. sold $1.9 million of defense articles and services to Vietnam in 2007)
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Controversies

Students discuss the VKC flag controversy (by Kate Mather, Daily Trojan)

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Human Rights

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is an authoritarian state ruled by the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV), which monopolizes political power. The most recent National Assembly elections, held in May 2007, were neither free nor fair, since all candidates were vetted by the CPV. Civilian authorities generally maintain effective control of the security forces. 

 
The government’s human rights record is unsatisfactory. Citizens cannot change their government, political opposition movements are prohibited, and religious freedom is not always respected. In fact, although there are some limitations in religious practice in Vietnam, the situation overall is mixed. Foreign missionaries are not allowed to proselytize or perform religious activities, and no other religions than the eight registered ones are allowed to propagate. However, legal preachers and religious associations working in Vietnam today are aided by the government, which is not anti-religion per se. Indeed, due to recent improvements in liberty of religion, the United States no longer considers Vietnam a Country of Particular Concern
 
The government suppresses dissent and arrests dissident political activists. Police sometimes abuse suspects during arrest, detention, and interrogation. Corruption is a significant problem in the police force, and police officers sometimes act with impunity. Prison conditions are often severe. Individuals are arbitrarily detained for political activities and denied the right to fair and expeditious trials.  The government limits citizens’ privacy rights and exercises tight controls over the press and freedom of speech, assembly, movement, and association. Independent human rights organizations are also prohibited. Violence and discrimination against women remain a concern. Trafficking in persons continues to be a significant problem. Some ethnic minority groups suffer societal discrimination, such as the ethnic Khmer in the Mekong River delta region and the Montagnards near Laos. The government limits workers’ rights and has arrested or harassed several labor activists.
 
The law provides for freedom of speech and of the press. However, the government restricts these freedoms, particularly with respect to speech that criticizes individual government leaders, promotes political pluralism or multiparty democracy, or questions policies on sensitive matters such as human rights, religious freedom, or border disputes with China. The CPV controls all print, broadcast, and electronic media. The government supplements this control through pervasive party guidance and national security legislation ensuring effective self-censorship by the domestic media. For example, the law requires journalists to pay monetary damages to individuals or organizations who have their reputations harmed as a result of journalists’ reporting, even if the reports are true; this severely hampers investigative reporting. Despite the continued growth of Internet blogs, there was a general crackdown on press freedom throughout 2007, resulting in the firings of several senior media editors and the arrest of two reporters; similar firings occurred in January 2009 as well. These actions dampened what had previously been a trend toward more aggressive investigative reporting. In December 2007, the government issued new regulations prohibiting bloggers from posting material that the government believes undermines national security or discloses state secrets, incites violence or crimes, or includes inaccurate information harming the reputation of individuals and organizations. The new regulations also require global Internet companies with (blogging platforms?) operating in the country to report to the government every six months and, if requested, to provide information about individual bloggers. 
 
Nevertheless, the press does report on topics that are considered sensitive, such as corruption among high ranking CPV and government officials, as well as occasional criticism of officials and official associations. However, the freedom to criticize the CPV and its senior leadership remains restricted. Foreign language editions of some banned books are sold openly by street peddlers and in shops oriented to tourists, and foreign language periodicals are widely available in cities. Occasionally however, the government has censored articles. 
 
Although the law limits access to satellite television to top officials, foreigners, luxury hotels, and the press, in practice, persons throughout the country were able to access foreign programming via home satellite equipment or cable. Cable television, including foreign-origin channels, was widely available to subscribers living in urban areas.
 
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Debate

The question of whether the Vietnamese government has continued to imprison American servicemen since the end of the war continues to be debated, though a Senate Select Committee on the subject, led by three Vietnam veteran Senators (John Kerry, John McCain and Robert Smith) found “no compelling evidence that proves that any American remains alive in captivity in Southeast Asia.”

 
The Vietnam-Era Prisoner-of-War/Missing-in-Action Database (United States Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs)
 An Enormous Crime (by Bill Hendon).
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Past Ambassadors

Donald R. Heath

Appointment: Jun 29, 1950
Presentation of Credentials: Oct 22, 1950
Termination of Mission: Left post Nov 14, 1954
Note: Promoted to Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary when the Legation in Saigon was raised to Embassy status, June 25, 1952. Also accredited to Cambodia and Laos; resident at Saigon. He also served as Director of Political Affairs for the American military government in Germany from 1945 to 1947; Minister to Bulgaria from 1947 to 1950; Ambassador to Lebanon, from 1955 to 1957; and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, from 1958 to 1961.
 
G. Frederick Reinhardt
Appointment: Apr 20, 1955
Presentation of Credentials: May 28, 1955
Termination of Mission: Reaccredited when Vietnam became a republic; presented new credentials on Feb 24, 1956; left post Feb 10, 1957.
Note: He also served as Ambassador to the United Arab Republic (a union of Syria and Egypt that lasted from 1958 to 1961) from 1960 to 1961, and to Italy from 1961 to 1968.
 
Elbridge Durbrow
Appointment: Mar 14, 1957
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 16, 1957
Termination of Mission: Left post May 3, 1961
 
Frederick E. Nolting, Jr.
Appointment: Mar 15, 1961
Presentation of Credentials: May 10, 1961
Termination of Mission: Left post Aug 15, 1963
 
Henry Cabot Lodge
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Aug 1, 1963
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 26, 1963
Termination of Mission: Left post Jun 28, 1964
Note: He also served as a member of Massachusetts state house of representatives from 1933 to 1936; US Senator from Massachusetts from 1937 to 1944 and 1947 to 1953; US Representative to United Nations from 1953 to 1960; Republican candidate for Vice President, 1960; Ambassador to Vietnam from 1965 to 1967; and to Germany from 1968 1969.
 
Maxwell D. Taylor
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Jul 1, 1964
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 14, 1964
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 30, 1965
Note: Taylor also served as Superintendent of West Point Military Academy from 1945 to 1949; US Commander in Berlin from 1949 to 1951; US Army Chief of Staff from 1955 to 1959; and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1962 to 1964. 
 
Henry Cabot Lodge
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Jul 31, 1965
Presentation of Credentials: Aug 25, 1965
Termination of Mission: Left post Apr 25, 1967
Note: He also served as a member of Massachusetts state house of representatives from 1933 to 1936; US Senator from Massachusetts from 1937 to 1944 and 1947 to 1953; US Representative to United Nations from 1953 to 1960; Republican candidate for Vice President, 1960; Ambassador to Vietnam from 1963 to 1964; and to Germany from 1968 1969.
 
Ellsworth Bunker
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Apr 5, 1967
Presentation of Credentials: Apr 28, 1967
Termination of Mission: Left post May 11, 1973
Note: Though not a career foreign service officer, Bunker was an experienced diplomat. He served as ambassador to Italy from 1952 to 1953, India from 1956 to 1961, the Organization of American States from 1964 to 1966, and South Vietnam from 1967 to 1973. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963 and 1967. 
 
Graham A. Martin
Appointment: Jun 21, 1973
Presentation of Credentials: Jul 20, 1973
Termination of Mission: Left post, Apr 29, 1975
Note: He also served as Ambassador to Thailand from 1963 to 1967 and Italy from 1969 to 1973.
 
Special Note: The Embassy in Saigon was closed and all Embassy personnel evacuated on April 29, 1975, just prior to the surrender of South Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces. The US did not have diplomatic relations with reunified Vietnam for twenty years. Finally, on January 28, 1995, the US opened a Liaison Office in Hanoi. Diplomatic relations were established July 11, 1995, and Embassy Hanoi was established with L. Desaix Anderson as Chargé d’Affaires ad interim.
 
Douglas “Pete” Peterson
Non-career appointee
Appointment: Apr 11, 1997
Presentation of Credentials: May 14, 1997
Termination of Mission: Left post Jul 15, 2001
Note: An earlier nomination of May 23, 1996, was not acted upon by the Senate.
Note: Peterson served in the US Air Force during the Vietnam War, and spent more than six years (September 10, 1966–March 4, 1973) as a prisoner of the North Vietnamese Army after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War. He also served as US Representative from Florida’s 2nd District from 1991 to 1997. 
 
Raymond Burghardt
Appointment: Nov 28, 2001
Presentation of Credentials: Feb 5, 2002
Termination of Mission: Left post Sep 5, 2004
 
Michael W. Marine
Appointment: May 12, 2004
Presentation of Credentials: Sep 27, 2004
Termination of Mission: Left post, Jun 17, 2007
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Vietnam's Ambassador to the U.S.
ambassador-image Phung, Le Cong

Le Cong Phung, a career diplomat, was born on February 20, 1948 in Thanh Hoa Province, Vietnam. He graduated from the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry’s School of Diplomacy in Hanoi in 1971. During his 37-year career, Ambassador Le Cong Phung served in various foreign service posts in England (1974-1977), China (1978-1980), Indonesia (1984-1987) and as Ambassador to Thailand (1993-1997). He served as Assistant Foreign Minister from 1999 until 2000. From 2000 through 2004, he acted as Chairman of the Committee on Border Affairs and as Chairman of the National Commission for UNESCO. He served as Deputy Foreign Minister between 2001 and 2004. Prior to becoming ambassador to the US, Phung was the First Deputy Foreign Minister, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ second ranking official, assisting Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in the conduct of Vietnam’s foreign policy. He was appointed by President Nguyen Minh Triet as Ambassador to the US in October 2007. He speaks fluent English and French.

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Vietnam's Embassy Web Site in the U.S.
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Comments

Nilesh 1 year ago
Please live together in peace, I am Vietnamese and i am in South Vietnamese Navy back in 1972, I used to hate the North Vietnamese, beascue I lost most everything family,friends,home,and country even in jail somtime before escape to USA.Now I hope we can try to be peace with together and I try very hard to forget forgive, if we can do that then we have a chance to built better Vietnam in the future,but now no way if only ONE VIETNAM=ONE GOVERNMENT=ONE SYSTEMS then people will have no future

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U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

Shear, David
ambassador-image

It took almost eight months after his nomination, but veteran Foreign Service officer David B. Shear officially became the ambassador to Vietnam, on August 4, 2011. Shear’s appointment was held up after Senators from both parties placed multiple holds on the diplomat’s confirmation, to protest problems that Americans have had with adopting orphans from Vietnam.

 
Shear graduated from Earlham College in 1975 and has a master’s degree in international affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in 1983. He has attended Waseda University, Taiwan National University and the Johns Hopkins Nanjing Center (1987)
He joined the Foreign Service in 1982 and his assignments have concentrated heavily on Asia.
 
Shear was a Rusk Fellow at Georgetown University’s institute for the Study of Diplomacy 1998-1999.
 
He has served in Sapporo and Tokyo (2001-2005), Japan, Beijing, China, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he was deputy chief of mission from 2005 to 2008.
 
In Washington, he has worked in the State Department’s Offices of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean Affairs and as the special assistant to the under secretary for political affairs.
 
He was director of the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs in 2008-2009 and served as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs in 2009-2011.
 
Shear has a first degree rank in the practice of Kendo, or Japanese sword fighting. He speaks Chinese and Japanese. He and his wife, Barbara (who also has has a first degree rank in Kendo), have one daughter.
 
Official Biography (State Department)

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Previous U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam

Michalak, Michael
ambassador-image

Michael W. Michalak, was born in Hamtramck, Michigan, in 1946. He earned a BS in physics from Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, in 1969, and an MS in the same field from the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, in 1971. He received a second Master’s degree in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1981. A career Foreign Service Officer since 1972, Michalak has worked in Tokyo, Japan; Sydney, Australia; Islamabad, Pakistan; and Beijing, China; as well as Washington, DC, where he was assigned to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, the Office for Japan and the Office of Chinese and Mongolian Affairs. He received a group award for valor for his actions in time of crisis when the US Embassy in Islamabad was burned down. Prior to becoming Ambassador to Vietnam, Michalak served as the US Senior Official to APEC, Bureau of East Asia Pacific Affairs, from 2005 to 2007. He was sworn in as Ambassador to Vietnam on August 10, 2007. He speaks Chinese and Japanese. 

 

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