Remarks With Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Gia Khiem After Their Meeting
Secretary of State
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Hello. Well, it was a pleasure to welcome Deputy Prime Minister Khiem to the State Department. I want to start by expressing the deepest sympathy of the United States for the loss of life and destruction of property caused across so many countries through the impact of Typhoon Ketsana. And as I told Minister Khiem, we stand ready to assist the people of Vietnam as they recover from this tragedy, just as we are working with the victims of the earthquakes, of the tsunamis. There have been a number of natural disasters that have caused great damage.
SECRETARY CLINTON:I also reaffirmed to the minister the commitment of the United States to strengthen and deepen our relationship with Vietnam and the nations of Southeast Asia. We believe that this is a region vital to global progress, prosperity, and peace, and we are fully engaged with our partners in ASEAN on a wide range of challenges.
Next year will mark the 15th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between our two countries. We can be proud of the progress we’ve made. I was very proud and am very fond of the memories of my own visit to Vietnam in 2000.
Today, we had a productive discussion focused on many issues – we talked very fast – including our regular dialogues on security; trade; human rights, especially freedom of expression; humanitarian cooperation; natural disaster cooperation; the fact that Vietnam will be presiding over the Security Council this month, as well as chairing ASEAN in 2010.
In the Security Council, we are working to advance nonproliferation, women’s rights, and other areas, and we’re going to work to deepen our already strong and growing economic ties. Last year, our two-way trade surpassed $15 billion. That is more than tenfold of an increase since our bilateral trade agreement went into effect in 2001. And the minister and I discussed areas where we’re going to expand our trade and economic cooperation.
We will build on the work we did at the first Lower Mekong ministerial in Phuket, and there are many areas of not only bilateral but regional cooperation that we intend to explore.
So again, Minister Khiem, thank you so much for being here.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER KHIEM: (Via interpreter) The Secretary of State has kept you fully informed of our discussions. And I just want to add that the discussions took place in an atmosphere which is very friendly, constructive, and candid. And I reaffirmed the commitment of the Vietnamese Government to attach importance to relations with United States, and we consider the U.S. as the top partner of Vietnam.
And bilateral ties have been growing very fast in the past years, and we need to build on that progress for further expansion of bilateral economic and trade ties, and also cooperation in education training, our science and technology cooperation. We have high value for the quality of higher education of the United States, and currently over 10,000 Vietnamese students are studying in United States.
And we appreciate the U.S. cooperation with ASEAN, as well as the initiative of America in cooperating with the Mekong sub-region countries. And both sides strongly believe in the very strong and solid growth of cooperation in this area.
And I want to express our gratitude to Madame Secretary of State, to the State Department, for the warm reception and the arrangement for my visit. Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MR. KELLY: The Secretary and Minister will take a few questions. In the interest of time, we’ll try and do this in English only, if we could. The first question is to Andrew Quinn for Reuters.
QUESTION: I have a question about your meetings yesterday at the White House about Afghanistan. I’m wondering if you could tell us if those meetings changed your opinion at all about where we should be going in Afghanistan. And specifically, what’s your view on proposals that we should be sending more troops there quickly to stabilize the situation?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we are in the middle of a process that is very rigorous and focused on answering those questions, and I think I’ll wait until the process is over.
MR. KELLEY: The second question for Mr. Vu Khac Hieu from Vietnam News Agency.
QUESTION: I have two questions for Madame Secretary. The first is how do you evaluate the roles of Vietnam in ASEAN, and what does the U.S. expect when Vietnam take the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2010?
And the second question is when Vietnam become chairman of ASEAN in 2010, there will be a summit between the U.S. and Vietnam – U.S. and ASEAN. So could you please tell us whether President Obama will make an official visit to Vietnam on that occasion?
And I have one question for Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem. (In Vietnamese.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, as to your questions for me, I’m looking forward to Vietnam assuming the chairmanship of ASEAN. We think there are a number of important issues that Vietnam will be able to lead ASEAN in addressing. I look forward to the ASEAN meeting in Vietnam, and I intend to be there. I cannot speak for the President’s schedule, but I know that the President shares my deep commitment to deepening and strengthening our relationship between our two countries and also the importance of ASEAN.
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER KHIEM: (Via interpreter) Before answering your questions, I want to go back to the information that our State President, Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet, has extended his official invitation to President Obama to visit Vietnam on the occasion of Vietnam’s chairing of ASEAN. And I myself also extended the invitation to Madame Secretary of State.
If describing the bilateral relations, I just want to describe it in one sentence; that is, to build a partnership of friendship, constructiveness, multi-sided cooperation on a long-term and mutually beneficial basis. And our cooperation is not just confined in the trade or economic matters, but expanded to the education, science/technology, defense, security.
MR. KELLY: The last question to Elise Labott from CNN.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madame Secretary. On the talks in Iran in Geneva today, there seems to be a lot of positive gestures leading up to these talks. The Iranians have allowed the Swiss diplomats to see those American hikers, and the U.S. has allowed the Iranian foreign minister to come to Washington, and now today Bill Burns has met with the chief Iranian nuclear negotiator on the sidelines. I was wondering if you see this – all this as some kind of breakthrough with Iran right now? And what do you think of the Iranian foreign minister’s proposal for summit-level talks? Could we be heading in that direction? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t want to characterize the talks today other than to be very specific as to what did happen. It was a full day of meetings between the P-5+1 and the Iranian delegation. There were plenary meetings interspersed with sidebar conversations, which provided an opportunity to reinforce the main concerns that the P-5+1 feels about the Iranian nuclear issue. There was a bilateral meeting on the sidelines between our delegation and the Iranian.
And I think that the readout from Geneva, which I received in a telephone call from Under Secretary Bill Burns, is that there were a number of issues raised, put on the table, and now we have to wait and see how quickly and whether Iran responds. And I think it was a productive day, but the proof of that has not yet come to fruition, so we’ll wait and continue to press our point of view and see what Iran decides to do.
QUESTION: But just in the bilateral sense, it seems that the Obama Administration’s desire to engage may be paying off in the sense that you do see these kind of gestures on both sides. Do you see that as a positive sign?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I will count it as a positive sign when it moves from gestures and engagement to actions and results. And that’s a necessary pathway, and I think we’re on it. We’ve always said we would engage, but we’re not talking for the sake of talking. We’re not involved in a process just to say that we can check on box on process. We want to see concrete actions and positive results. And I think today’s meeting opened the door, but let’s see what happens.
QUESTION: May I ask a question, please? Did the avian flu come up at all?
SECRETARY CLINTON: We talked about increased disease cooperation with respect to the Mekong initiative, and there will be a meeting quite soon to pursue that.
MR. KELLY: Thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
FOREIGN MINISTER KHIEM: Thank you.