The Latest: Peace Corps to set up programs in Vietnam

AP News
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Posted: May 23, 2016 10:41 PM
The Latest: Peace Corps to set up programs in Vietnam

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The Latest on U.S. President Barack Obama's first visit to Vietnam (all times local):

9:40 a.m.

The United States and Vietnam have reached an agreement that will see the Peace Corps set up English-language training programs in the country's two largest cities, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

As President Barack Obama continued an historic three-day visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, officials from the two sides signed an agreement that will bring an initial group of about 20 Peace Corps volunteers to Vietnam starting next year.

The program, the first for the Peace Corps in Vietnam, is expected to expand in size in following years and grow to more cities.

The agreement was signed after about a decade of discussions.

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4:25 p.m.

China is outwardly lauding the lifting of a U.S. arms embargo on Vietnam, saying it hopes "normal and friendly" relations between the U.S. and Vietnam are conducive to regional stability.

A spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry says weapons embargoes are a product of the Cold War and shouldn't have existed.

China itself remains under a weapons embargo imposed by the U.S. and European Union following 1989's bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The lifting of the ban may increase South China Sea tensions as China and other nations in the region argue over territory. The lifting of the ban potentially gives Vietnam more opportunity to stand up to China's ambitions.

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3:30 p.m.

The presidents of the U.S. and Vietnam are toasting improved relations between their countries.

At a state luncheon in Hanoi in President Barack Obama's honor, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (TrAAN Die Kwang) thanked Obama for traveling so far to help achieve "another crucial milestone" in the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship.

Quang spoke of the long effort to "overcome profound grievances" from the war years, and cited a saying of Ho Chi Minh about welcoming the "warm spring" that follows a cold winter.

Obama offered thanks for all who came before to "help our nations reconcile."

He has singled out Secretary of State John Kerry, who served in Vietnam, for special mention. Obama says veterans on both sides have shown "hearts can change and peace is possible."

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2:40 p.m.

The United States and Vietnam have released a joint statement citing examples of how the two nations are deepening ties.

The two nations are hailing an arrangement granting one-year, multiple-entry visas for short-term business and tourism travelers from both countries.

In another development, the U.S. is welcoming the Vietnamese government's approval of the Peace Corps to teach English in Vietnam.

The two nations also reaffirmed efforts to ratify and implement the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that has struggled to gain traction in Congress during an election year.

The two nations are also stressing efforts to address issues stemming from the Vietnam War with the U.S. investing nearly $90 million in dioxin remediation at the Da Nang International Airport, a project that will finish next year.

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1:50 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the death of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Akhtar Mansour should send a "clear signal" to extremists intent on harming U.S. personnel that "we're going to protect our people."

Obama says Mansour was specifically targeting U.S. personnel and troops who were sent to Afghanistan to assist and train the country's military forces.

Obama says Mansour's death doesn't signal a shift in the U.S. approach to countering terrorism in Afghanistan. He says the U.S. will not engage in day-to-day combat operations, but will continue to help the Afghan people secure their country.

Mansour was killed when a U.S. drone fired on his vehicle in the southwestern Pakistan province of Baluchistan. He had emerged as the successor to Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, whose 2013 death was only revealed last summer.

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1:40 p.m.

President Barack Obama says the decision to lift an arm embargo on Vietnam is not based on relations with China, but on a desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of normalizing relations between the United States and Vietnam.

Obama says the U.S. will continue to analyze weapons sales case-by-case, but it won't have a ban based on an ideological division between the two countries.

Obama says the U.S. expects greater cooperation between each nation's militaries, often in response to humanitarian disasters. He also says there is a mutual concern with respect to maritime issues.

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1:15 p.m.

President Barack Obama has announced the lifting of an arms embargo on Vietnam, removing a vestige of wartime animosity in an attempt to shore up the communist country in its territorial dispute with an increasingly aggressive China.

Obama made the announcement Monday during a news conference in Hanoi with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (TrAAN Die Kwang).

U.S. lawmakers and activists had urged Obama to press for greater human rights freedoms before lifting the embargo.

Washington partially lifted the embargo on arms in 2014, but Vietnam wanted full access as it tries to deal with China's land reclamation and military construction in the disputed South China Sea.

Lifting the restrictions will anger China, which is deeply suspicious of growing U.S. defense ties in areas it sees as its own.

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12:10 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang (TrAAN Die Kwang) opened their visit by touting the deepening economic relationship between the two countries.

The presidents attended a signing ceremony celebrating a series of new commercial deals between U.S. and Vietnamese companies. The White House said the value of the transactions was more than $16 billion.

The deals included U.S. engine manufacturer Pratt & Whitney's plans to sell 135 advanced engines to Vietnamese air carrier Vietjet and Boeing's plans to sell 100 aircraft to airline. The White House says the Boeing deal is expected to support 60,000 American manufacturing and technology jobs.

The White House also announced an agreement between GE Wind and the Vietnamese government to develop 1,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity.

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12:06 p.m.

U.S. President Barack Obama starts his visit to Vietnam looking to bolster trade ties with the government, and possibly lift an arms export embargo, even as he meets with dissidents and pushes for greater human rights freedoms from the one-party state.

Obama will try to strike this balance during his three-day visit to a country Washington sees as a crucial, though flawed partner as China seeks to boost its claim to disputed territory in the South China Sea.

Though Vietnam mostly has Russian equipment, lifting the embargo would be a boost for the country. It would show relations are fully normalized and open the way to deeper security cooperation.

U.S. lawmakers and activists have urged Obama to press for greater rights freedoms before granting it.

A decision could come Monday.