The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs on June 5 held hearing on the US relations with Vietnam, under the chair of Congressman Steven Chabot, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia.

They heard the testimony of Joseph Yun, Acting Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistance Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

In his testimony Joseph Yun affirmed that the US’ bilateral relationship with Vietnam is “developing into an important emerging partnership” built on the common interest in a stable, secure and prosperous Asia-Pacific.

Since the two countries normalised their diplomatic relations in 1995, their cooperation in all fields has enjoyed a fine development, especially two-way trade hitting 25 billion USD each year and the US’ direct investment in Vietnam reaching more than 10 billion USD.

In the time to come, both countries will continue boosting the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), thus helping them expand their markets, Yun said.

He affirmed that the two sides’ cooperation on regional issues has deepened remarkably, especially within the framework of ASEAN and other multilateral forums to encourage discussion of maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief issues facing the region.

“The US also supports the efforts by Vietnam and other ASEAN member countries to negotiate with China about a Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC) and to solve disputes through diplomatic or other peaceful means in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Yun said.

Southeast Asia’s prosperity is based on continued stability, particularly in the East Sea , the US diplomat said, adding that his country supports regional efforts to manage these disputes without the use of force or coercion.

The two countries are cooperating more closely in regional and global security issues as they share a common interest in maintaining peace and security in Southeast Asia and, more broadly, in the Asia-Pacific.

Yun also noted that the US appreciates Vietnam’s commitment to non-proliferation and as Vietnam sits along vital shipping routes, the US is working with the country to enhance its maritime domain awareness so that it can become an even stronger and more effective partner in countering narcotics smuggling and piracy.

The two countries are promoting military-to-military exchange and conducting joint training in search and rescue and disaster relief, the official reckoned.

“The US welcomes Vietnam’s plans to deploy its first troops overseas in support of United Nations peacekeeping mission by 2014. To help with this effort, the US is providing broad-based professional military education to the Vietnamese military to help them prepare for these missions”, the US diplomat said.

In his testimony, Yun also reviewed cooperation between the two countries in POW/MIA issues. As of April, 2013, 693 sets of remains of the US soldiers missing during the war in Vietnam were repatriated for burial in the US. The US also commits to helping Vietnam resolve the problem of unexploded ordnance (UXO).

According to Yun, addressing dioxin contamination is the most challenging issues of all associated with the war. Last August, the US Agency for International Development broke ground on its project to remediate the dioxin hotspot at the former US airbase in Da Nang city, which is one of the most expensive and complex remediation efforts the Government has ever conducted overseas.

The US’ forward-looking relationship with Vietnam manifests clearly most in their blossoming people-to-people relationships.

“We believe building these connections through exchange opportunities, cultural enrichment, and educational ties is key to establishing a broader partnership with Vietnam’s people,” Yun stressed.

He cited the current number of 15,000 Vietnamese students studying in the US this year, saying this makes Vietnam the eighth-largest sender of foreign students to US schools and demonstrates a dramatic change from 1995 when only 800 Vietnamese students were learning in the US.

The diplomat also talked about debates on amendments to the Constitution in Vietnam, stating that the US respects Vietnam’s independence and sovereignty, and highlighted the vital role that Vietnamese-Americans are playing in Vietnam’s development and the bilateral relationship.

Present at the event, Congressman Eni Faleomaveaga spoke of heavy war consequences in Vietnam, especially Agent Orange and UXO issues, and asked the US Government and Congress to take partial responsibility to help the country address those consequences.-VNA