Vietnam wants US to lift ban on sale of weapons

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Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung Monday called on the US to fully remove a ban on the sales of lethal weapons to his country at a meeting in Hanoi with visiting US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.

He also urged the US to work to resolve the consequences of the Vietnam War.

Highlighting the positive changes since the two nations established diplomatic ties in 1995, Dung said that Vietnam considers the US a leading partner and hopes the US would continue to help maintain peace, security, stability, cooperation, and development in the Asia-Pacific region.

He listed economics, trade, investment, science and technology, education and training, anti-terrorism, fight against transnational crimes, maritime safety and security, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and adaptation to climate change as the areas in which Vietnam wants to boost bilateral ties.

The cooperation must be based on mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and independence and legitimate interests, he said.

Earlier the same day Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said at a press conference that his country wants to buy weapons from the US.

"We want the US to lift the ban on lethal weapons trade with Vietnam for [our] mutual interest and for the purpose of normalization of bilateral ties.

"If the ban is removed, we want to buy certain kinds of weapons to overhaul and upgrade our weaponry."

Speaking at the same press conference, Panetta thanked Vietnam for giving him a chance to pay a "historic visit" to Cam Ranh Bay as the first US Defense Secretary to go there since the war ended.

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Thanh said he and Panetta had an open and frank dialogue on issues of mutual interest, including implementation of a memorandum of understanding on cooperation that the two defense ministries signed late last year.

The areas of cooperation include search and rescue, peacekeeping, military medicine, humanitarian aid, and disaster relief, he said.

The two sides will also work to resolve the consequences of war, such as the clearing of landmines and cleaning up Agent Orange residue. 

The US proposes to establish an office to coordinate bilateral cooperation.

It is a sign of the US's long-term commitment to defense relations with Vietnam, Panetta said.

He handed over to Thanh a diary taken from the body of Vu Dinh Doan, who was killed in a fight with a Marine Corps platoon in March 1966.

Thanh in turn gave Panetta letters found on US Army Sergeant Steve Flaherty, who was killed in 1969.

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