Ties with Vietnam strategically important: Clinton

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US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton arrived in Hanoi Thursday on her second visit to Vietnam, praising a relationship she described as being of strategic importance for the US' engagement in Asia Pacific and Southeast Asia.

"We have learned to see each other not as former enemies, but as actual and potential partners, colleagues and friends," Clinton said at a lunch with Vietnamese and American businesspeople.

Clinton, who first came here in 2000 with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, said she has a personal commitment to improve the Vietnam-US relations, recalling memories during her days as the visiting first lady.

"Frankly, we were not sure what exactly to expect. Everywhere we went, we felt the warmth and hospitality of Vietnamese people. For us, this has had a profound impact," she said.

In her meeting with Vietnam's Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Clinton said both sides discussed openly issues related to regional security such as the situation in Myanmar and North Korea, along with ways to improve bilateral relations in trade and investment, education, healthcare, humanitarian efforts and Agent Orange.

She noted that both countries have been able to engage in dialogues even on issues considered sensitive. "This has not been easy, but it has been worth every bit of effort that so many people in both countries have decided to invest in," she said.

The Vietnamese side expressed the desire that the US would increase funding to help Agent Orange victims, recognize it as a market economy and accept the country's request to be added to the GSP (Generalized System of Preference) program. On the same day she also signed a memorandum of understanding to increase cooperation in fighting HIV/AIDS.

At a the second lower Mekong-US Ministerial meeting held on Thursday, Clinton said the US is committed to provide $US14 million in the next three years to help the region deal with climate change, pandemic threat and other challenges.

She's scheduled to attend the ASEAN security forum on Friday in Hanoi. The foreign ministers from North Korea and Myanmar will also attend the meeting.

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