QUESTION: Hello, sir. Thank you for joining us today.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.
QUESTION: This is your first visit to Vietnam as the U.S. Secretary of State. What do you expect the new opportunities opening up after your visit?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, it’s – for me it’s wonderful, actually, to be back in Vietnam. I was here in 2015 and 2016 when I was the deputy secretary of state. This is, as you said, my first visit as Secretary. And what I’ve seen is a remarkable partnership develop, especially over the last 10 years since we’ve had a comprehensive partnership, where we are cooperating and collaborating in so many different areas that have a positive impact on the lives of Vietnamese and Americans alike, whether it’s dealing with climate change, energy, strengthening our economic ties, trade and investment, education, science and technology. There’s a very, very strong foundation, and I think what I’m hearing from both Vietnamese colleagues as well as from my own colleagues in Washington is the desire to take this partnership to an even greater, higher level.
QUESTION: Yeah, so would you let me know specific initiative to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam and to support a strong, independent, resilient, and prosperous Vietnam?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yeah. Well, that’s exactly right. We have strong support for a strong, independent, resilient, prosperous Vietnam. Both of us feel strongly about the importance of upholding the international rule of law. We have mutual respect for each other’s systems, and I think there’s a recognition by both Vietnam and the United States that the cooperation that we already have, we can build on it even more. We can strengthen and make more effective what we’re already doing together and add new areas of collaboration.
For example, I mentioned science and technology. Vietnam is emerging as a truly innovative and entrepreneurial country. We, I think, can be a strong partner in that. I visited just today the Hanoi University for Science and Technology. I saw some young Vietnamese who are doing remarkable work, for example, in robotics, who will be visiting the United States. We want to strengthen that partnership.
Education more broadly, building up Fulbright University, having more exchanges between our students, and then climate change is I think a very important area for even greater collaboration between us. We both recognize the importance of dealing with this. We have some resources, technology, expertise that we can work together with Vietnam on addressing this issue.
QUESTION: Thank you, sir. And regarding your visits to Vietnam in 2015 —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: — and now in 2023, from a personal perspective, how do you view the growth in the relationship between the two countries?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, if you just look at some of the numbers, it’s quite extraordinary. If you go back to when we lifted the economic embargo, when we first really re-established our relations two decades ago, there was no trade between us. When I was here in 2015, trade was about $45 billion, so that was significant. Now, just a few years later, it’s $145 billion. So just in that area alone – but it’s much broader than that.
I think what’s changed or evolved even more is that we’re cooperating in so many different areas. Just in the last few weeks, before my visit, we had the United States Trade Representative was visiting. The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development was here. Tomorrow, after I leave, our Secretary of Agriculture is going to be here because we’re working together in that area. For example, in the Mekong, we’re helping provide resilient seeds that can withstand climate change and withstand drought so that there can be strong food production even in the face of challenges like climate change.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you, sir, and about the East Sea we have some questions. In the context of constantly changing geopolitics, how do you envision the U.S. policy in the East Sea?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, Vietnam and the United States have the same approach, which is – as do many other countries in the region. It’s very important that we uphold freedom of the seas, freedom of navigation, freedom of commerce; that we all play by the law, by international law. The Law of the Sea convention has the basic – many of the basic rules. Both Vietnam and the United States feel strongly that every country needs to respect them. And so we work on that together.
We are working with Vietnam to help give it the capacity to have a good picture of what’s happening in the seas around Vietnam. We have something that we call maritime domain awareness, just having the technology and the information to understand what’s going on. Vietnam sometimes is a victim of illegal fishing and unreported fishing. It’s important to be able to know that that’s happening to stop it – piracy, things of that nature. So we have this – we have very much the same approach. We’re also working together to support, for example, work being done in ASEAN to develop a code of conduct consistent with international law so that all countries play by the same rules.
QUESTION: And so many believe that there is a need for measures to manage the situation in the East Sea. So the priority is to (inaudible) of the code of conduct —
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Yes.
QUESTION: — in the East Sea, to manage behavior of the parties in the East Sea in a better, more substantive, and more effective – to ensure maritime security and safety in the region. Would you share your views on this statement?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: We think it would be an important achievement to come to agreement in ASEAN on a code of conduct consistent with international law. If that was achievable, that would be a very good thing. This is something that countries of ASEAN have been working on for a number of years now. In fact, even when I was last here in 2015 or 2016, that was very much a subject. But a code of conduct that every country adheres to, that is consistent with international law, I think could be a good way of strengthening and ensuring peace, stability, and especially the freedom of the seas which is so vital to Vietnam and vital to the United States.
QUESTION: Yes, thank – thank you. And this year mark the 10th anniversary of the Vietnam-U.S. Comprehensive Partnership. How do you assess the prospect of cooperation between our two countries in trade, agriculture, green energy, humanitarian assistance, and seeking missing people?
SECRETARY BLINKEN: I think the possibilities are extraordinary, because we’ve already had 10 years of very strong cooperation and collaboration, and I think there’s a commitment on the part of both Vietnam and the United States to build on that, to elevate that, to do even more in each of the areas that you mentioned.
We’re also absolutely committed to continuing to deal with the legacies of the war. We feel that this is a matter of responsibility, of trust, and we have an enduring commitment to that. So remediation work continues. Helping Vietnam account for those who are missing among Vietnamese, just as Vietnam has been such a strong partner to us in accounting for missing Americans – that’s a deep commitment for the United States and one that will be an enduring commitment. And even though in a sense that’s about the past, we remain committed to it now, even as we’re building together a future that is focused on so many different things that are – can have a positive impact on the lives of Vietnamese and the lives of Americans.
QUESTION: Thank you. Once again, thank you for the interview for VTC today.
SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you so much. So good to be with you.