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Jul 14, 2021 / 16:34

US Ambassador nominee to Vietnam prioritizes security in his term

The diplomat prioritizes security in the four-area relations that also include trade and investment, war legacy and humanitarian issues, and people-to-people ties.

Nominee to be US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper highlighted security in the relations with the Southeast Asian country in his upcoming term.

Nominee to be US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper. 

Speaking at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s hearing held on July 13, Knapper shared his plan to develop the US-Vietnam relationship across a wide range of four areas with security placed the first.

He said the two countries have significantly expanded security cooperation, including through US support to strengthen Vietnam’s maritime capabilities. Last year, Vietnam welcomed the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the second US aircraft carrier to visit since they established diplomatic relations in 1995.

The US and Vietnam share an interest in upholding international law and resisting provocative behavior in the South China Sea and Mekong region, Knapper said, adding that “if confirmed I will make every effort deepen our cooperation in this area.”

The second importance is trade and investment. The two-way trade has grown significantly, increasing from nearly nothing in 1995 to more than US$90 billion in 2020, benefiting American manufacturers, farmers and ranchers, and consumers. The diplomat expected that Vietnam will maintain equitable market access for US digital services and agricultural products.

War legacy and humanitarian issues are placed third. In which, Knapper hoped to pay significant attention to the fullest possible accounting for US personnel missing during the wartime in Vietnam. “For decades, Vietnam has provided critical assistance to those efforts,” he noted.

According to the diplomat, the US has contributed more than $160 million to mitigate lingering threats posed by unexploded ordnance since 1993. In cooperation with Vietnam, the US completed the remediation of dioxin contamination in Danang in 2018, and in 2019 broke ground on the 10-year dioxin remediation project at the Bien Hoa airbase area.

In addition, the US has since 1989 provided more than $125 million in humanitarian assistance, directly and indirectly supporting over a million persons with disabilities, regardless of the cause. The cooperation on these issues continues to build a foundation of trust to expand the relationship, he said.

Knapper included the people-to-people ties in his coverage for the relationship. He said the bonds between the American and Vietnamese people are strong and growing. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, nearly 700,000 Americans traveled to Vietnam annually, including more than 1,200 American students.

Meanwhile, the US welcomes 30,000 Vietnamese students each year. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of US-Vietnam relations last year, the two countries signed an agreement to bring Peace Corps volunteers for the first time ever, a significant and symbolic milestone.

Knapper, a Senior Foreign Service member in Asia for years, was nominated as new ambassador to Vietnam in mid-April by President Joe Biden to succeed Daniel J. Kritenbrink who stressed the importance of solving war legacies.