Kerry discusses trade, security, climate change with Vietnam Prime Minister, Party chief

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US Secretary of State John Kerry held talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong on trade, security, climate change and war relief in Hanoi Monday, the last day of his first visit to Vietnam as the top US diplomat.

Dung said Vietnam will continue to cooperate with the US in negotiating of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, also known as TPP, Vietnam News Agency reported.

But he said that the US-led 12-nation trade pact should be "flexible" to correspond to each member country's development, and give them equal rights.

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He urged the US to reduce bilateral trade barriers and recognize Vietnam has a market economy.  

He said the two nations have engaged in cooperative, constructive and understanding dialogues on human rights issues to avoid any hindrance to their cooperation.

He praised the US for its support of climate change response measures in Vietnam and its interest in the sustainable use of the Mekong River throughout the region. He called for further US help in environmental protection and water management to countries along the river.

He welcomed the US in supporting Vietnam and other ASEAN countries in their effort to settle disputes in the East Sea, internationally known as South China Sea, by peaceful means and on the basis of international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. He reiterated the thanks for supporting the ASEAN's effort to build a Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea.

Backing Vietnam's stance, Kerry said the US is very aware of cooperation in maritime security and freedom in the East Sea.

He said he himself will try to help Vietnam with war relief and in developing responses to climate change.

In his later meeting with Trong, Kerry said he expected further cooperation between the two nations in Mekong River region ecosystem conservation, trade, education, science and technology, and the early completion of TPP negotiations, on the basis of the comprehensive partnership President Truong Tan Sang and US President Barrack Obama agreed upon in July.

Trong agreed and said Vietnam considers the US an important partner and said he hoped for increased US investment in Vietnam.

The two praised both sides' efforts in addressing the consequences of war and finding missing soldiers. They also called for more continued support in this area.

They also urged increased cooperation in international and regional forums.

Before the talks, Kerry had visited an art gallery and silk shop in Hanoi's old quarter and discussed similar issues with Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, Reuters reported.

He told Minh that the US will assist Southeast Asian countries with $32.5 million for maritime law enforcement, which includes training and new fast patrol boats for coast guards. 

He told the press after the meeting with Minh that peace and stability in the East Sea is the US's "top priority," and his country is "very concerned by and strongly opposed to" aggressiveness in territorial claims.   

"[But] this (the assistance) is really an ongoing policy and not some kind of quickly conceived reaction to any events in the region."

Talking about Hanoi, he said: "When I touched down in Hanoi in 1991 for the first time as a civilian and as a senator, I have stark memories of a very, very different Hanoi. There were still laws that then restricted people's interactions with foreigners. There was none of the vibrancy and energy that you see today in terms of the stores and shops and entrepreneurial activity."

"[But] today, the energy of this city is absolutely remarkable, as is the energy of this country, and the transformation is nothing short of amazing."

During his stay, Kerry gave speeches about trade, human rights, US assistance to Vietnam in education and climate change responses. He walked the streets of Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday and the Mekong Delta Province of Ca Mau, where he had previously fought during the Vietnam War, on Sunday.

Kerry visited Vietnam 13 times as a US senator.

After Vietnam, he arrived in the Philippines Tuesday for a two-day visit to the US's long-term ally.

He was scheduled to meet with senior officials in Manila to discuss US military expansion in the Southeast Asian country and its territorial dispute with neighboring China.

He will also visit Tacloban, the city worst-hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan last month to witness first-hand its ongoing recovery efforts and discuss how his country can continue to help the city in its reconstruction.

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