US President, Barack Obama is still mulling over the chances of making an historic decision before his time at the Oval Office runs out with reports claiming that the two-time president is still not sure whether the US arms embargo on Vietnam must be lifted or not.
Obama is set to travel to Vietnam in a few days and the White House is still mulling over the possibility of lifting the embargo which was set in light of the country’s human rights concerns.
However, Obama might be forced into making a positive decision soon considering that there’s a lot of support within the US administration and on Capitol Hill to fully remove or at least partially ease the ban on weapons sales in a bid to bolster ties between the former wartime adversaries. Winds have changed largely because of Chinese activities in the South China Sea.
In recent months, US has been lobbying hard and fast in a bid to shore up its allies’ defenses as China continues its expansion at the South China Sea, a sea route where eight states are vying for supremacy but only China has been strong enough to do something about it.
For years, Vietnam has sought an end to the embargo and if it happens, it will spell an end to one of the last major vestiges of the Vietnam War era.
However, lifting the embargo would prove to be a very tricky affair with the spillover bound to send reverberations around the world. Lifting the embargo could potentially anger Beijing with the Chinese government already condemning and critical of Obama administration partially lifting of the ban back in 2014. China calls such actions as clear interference in the region which means that the move is bound to ruffle a few feathers.
The US deliberations come in the wake of increased tensions between the two states over the disputed South China Sea with the Asian powerhouse demanding US to end its constant surveillance in the area after two Chinese fighter jets intercepted a US military reconnaissance aircraft. The Pentagon has called the interception as unsafe.
For all these reasons the decision on Vietnam remains a difficult one and regardless of the outcome it will prove to be a controversial one for that matter with Obama’s deputy nationals security adviser Ben Rhodes admitting that the administration is yet to come to a final decision over the embargo that has lasted for three decades. However, Rhodes evaded the question when he was asked if an announcement was forthcoming.
“It will be a subject of discussion with the Vietnamese,” he told reporters in a preview of Obama’s trip, saying the president would explain his thinking to the country’s communist leadership. “It’s something that we obviously have been looking at in the context of our broader relationship.”
However, Obama administration is also aware that it cannot risk alienating Vietnam and needs to balance its act before the state looks towards other avenues for strengthening its security.