HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — A U.S. official said Sunday that while Vietnam has made progress on human rights, it must do more if it is to forge closer economic and security ties with the United States.
Assistant Secretary of State Tom Malinowski told reporters in Hanoi at the end of his five-day visit that the communist government should reform its laws to bring them in full compliance with Vietnam's 2013 constitution and its international obligations.
Malinowski's arrival on Tuesday came the same day that Vietnam's government released prominent blogger Nguyen Van Hai and put him on a flight to the United States. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Hai had decided himself to travel to the U.S.
"I made clear that we want to do more to deepen our relationship and we can do more on security cooperation and the TPP," Malinowski said, referring to the Pacific Rim trade pact the United States, Vietnam and 10 other countries were negotiating. "But we can do this if and only if there's a multiple progress on human rights."
Malinowski noted that Vietnam had released 12 prisoners of conscience this year, but urged the government not to use vaguely worded security laws to arrest people who peacefully express their views.
"There would not be progress if a dozen people were released and then a dozen more people were arrested," he said. "So we stressed about the need to follow through on the commitments the Vietnamese government has made to fundamentally reform the laws ... to bring the country's laws into full compliance with its 2013 constitution and with its international obligations."
Malinowski said that in his meetings with Vietnamese government officials, he explained that some articles of the country's criminal code were not consistent with its obligations and that they "appear to target freedom of expression and association."
Malinowski said the U.S. "wants a much deeper and much more sustainable partnership (with Vietnam), like the ones we have with our closest allies in Asia, Europe and elsewhere," but that "we need a solid foundation based on our shared values, and that's why we stress the human rights issue so strongly."