Comment Of Senator Patrick Leahy On The President’s Announcement Of His Decision To Lift Arms Sales Embargo On Vietnam

[Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) is the ranking member of the State Department’s budget committee -- the State Department and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee – and author of the Leahy Law).  The President invited Leahy to accompany him on this week’s historic visit to Vietnam, but Leahy had commitments at this weekend’s UVM Commencement activities, and declined.]

“Lifting the ban on arms sales to Vietnam further demonstrates that the United States is a reliable partner, and it sends a not too subtle message to China at a time when it is threatening regional stability in the South China Sea.  But it should not open the floodgates for sales of lethal equipment.  Those decisions will be made on a case by case basis.  As is our practice with other countries, these decisions should reflect an assessment of the relevant factors including progress by the Vietnamese Government in protecting freedom of expression and other human rights.”

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For the past 7 years, Senator Leahy has been including funding in the annual Department of State and foreign Operations appropriations bill to support health/disability programs to assist Vietnamese with disabilities likely caused by exposure to Agent Orange, and to clean up former U.S. airbases where Agent Orange was stored and loaded and which are now heavily contaminated with dioxin.  To clean up the Da Nang Airport, which will be completed at the end of next year, Leahy obtained $100 million, and additional funds to conduct a survey of contamination at the Bien Hoa Airbase.  The health/disability program, which so far exceeds $30 million, is designed to assist people with the most severe physical and mental disabilities.  It is being implemented by three U.S. and three Vietnamese nongovernmental organizations in seven provinces.  Leahy hopes that during his visit to Vietnam President Obama will announce the intention of the U.S. government to work with the Vietnamese Government to clean up Bien Hoa.  The U.S. military’s use of Agent Orange long was a source of anger and resentment, but because of these efforts it has become an issue that both governments are working together to address. 

Apart from these projects, Leahy and President George H.W. Bush many years ago collaborated to provide funding under the Leahy War Victims Fund for a prosthetics clinic in Vietnam for landmine victims; it was the first U.S. aid project in Vietnam, as President Bush was working toward normalizing relations.  This USAID/Leahy War Victims Fund aid was provided through an NGO which operated the clinic.

Leahy’s most recent visit to the Agent Orange projects in Vietnam was in 2014.






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