Doctor Bill Laurie, Historian: U.S. excuse for a government has never been concerned with honesty or morality especially in foreign relations. Since 1975 U.S. has had all the leverage in dealing with Hanoi....and has done NOTHING with it. Nothing. It could, for example, advance cause of human rights immediately by demanding release of specific political prisoners and will close U.S. Embassy in Hanoi every ...and ...until this is done. It could place a ceiling on Vietnamese students allowed in U.S. (now in tens of thousand) and....of great importance, explaining to U.S., VN, and world public the reasons for these actions. Easy to do. Has been easy for 40 years, and NOTHING has been done.
It is embarrassing to belong to such a stupid, gutless, unprincipled country.
Vietnamese human rights activists joined members of Congress at a press conference on May 24, 2016 at the Capitol. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)
(CNSNews.com) – Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said President Barack Obama’s visit to Vietnam and the announcement that the U.S. is lifting the ban on supplying the Communist government with lethal military equipment goes against U.S. interests and values.
“This is not smart diplomacy,” said Smith, who was joined at a news conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday by Reps. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) and Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.) and Vietnamese human rights advocates.
“It is the surrender of U.S. interests and of U.S. values,” Smith said.
“I think this was premature,” Lowenthal said of Obama's visit. “It was ill-advised. I am very disappointed that we lost yet another opportunity to elicit any kind of commitment from the Vietnamese government on improving the human rights of the Vietnamese people,” Lowenthal said.
Smith said that the release of Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly from prison ahead of Obama’s visit “should not be considered a human rights breakthrough.” He noted that more than 100 “prisoners of conscience” remain behind bars.
In his remarks, Smith referred to the newly released annual report of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which recommends that Vietnam be designated as a “Country of Particular Concern” for religious freedom violations.
“The president’s visit to Cuba and Vietnam share the same pathetic pattern,” Smith said. “He’s more interested in photo-ops with dictators than standing up for persecuted individuals who share our values of freedom and human rights.
“He touts the benefits of engagement, but offers economic and security benefits without condition, giving dictators unwarranted legitimacy.
“This is not smart diplomacy,” Smith said. “It is a surrender of U.S. interests and of U.S. values.”
Speaking to Vietnamese civilians on Tuesday, President Obama hailed the "remarkable strides" the communist nation has made in recent years, but he also noted that "there are still areas of significant concern in terms of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, accountability with respect to government."
Obama said he respects Vietnam's "sovereignty and independence," but "we do believe in certain universal values, and it's important for us to speak out on behalf of those values wherever we go."
Obama was speaking to a group of "preeminent civil society activists," including pastors, advocates for the disabled, LGBT activists, artists, and advocates for free speech and expression.
"I should note that there were several other activists who were invited who were prevented from coming for various reasons," the president said.
"And I think it's an indication of the fact that, although there has been some modest progress and it is our hope that through some of the legal reforms that are being drafted and passed there will be more progress, there are still folks who find it very difficult to assemble and organize peacefully around issues that they care deeply about."
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