US President on a visit to Vietnam, Japan

United States President Barack Obama is on a visit to Vietnam and Japan. This is Obama’s first visit to Vietnam as an American president. In Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Obama will stress improving relations with a dynamic and rapidly emerging country.

Four decades after a war with Vietnam that deeply divided opinion in America, Obama aims to boost defense and economic ties with the country’s communist rulers while also prodding them on human rights. His visit has been preceded by a debate in Washington over whether Obama should use the three-day visit starting Monday to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.

Bilateral trade has swelled 10 times over since ties were normalized in 1995 to around $45 billion now. Vietnam is Southeast Asia’s biggest exporter to the United States, with textiles and electronics the largest volumes.

Obama will then travel to Sendai in Japan for the G7 summit meetings. Obama will become the first sitting U.S. president to visit Hiroshima. He will also meet with survivors of the atomic bombings that ended World War II.

China’s Territorial Assertions in the South China Sea

The territorial dispute over the South China Sea will be among the key topics President Obama discusses in Vietnam. The administration has become increasingly concerned with China’s artificial island building in the disputed waters, which Vietnam also lays claim to. Lifting the three-decades-long arms embargo could be one way to help bolster Vietnam’s defense system to counter the Chinese.

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