Is Obama Moving Too Fast with Vietnam?

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Vietnam’s Communist Party chief, Nguyen Phu Trong, met with President Obama at the White House on July 7th. Trong’s visit is historic, the first to the United States by a Vietnam Communist Party chief, and a big step in a relationship that has been transformed since the end of the Vietnam War.

The Obama administration would like Trong’s visit to be seen as part of its “pivot” to Asia, the 2011 initiative to redirect America’s strategic focus to a region increasingly dominated by China. The problem with this is that without emphasis on democratic values—an integral part of the pivot according to the president himself—Trong’s Oval Office reception not a strategic gambit but another in a string of concessions to repressive governments for which Obama’s presidency is becoming known.

Since the wave of democratization in Asia in the late 20th century, America has defined its interests and alliances there in terms of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights. Obama himself said as much when he launched the pivot initiative in late 2011. Speaking to the Australian Parliament, the president stressed the freedom as the “essence of America’s leadership” as well as its relationships with allies in the region.

- The remainder of this post can be read for free at Democracy Road, FPI Senior Fellow Ellen Bork's blog at World Affairs Journal


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