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The two sides vow to expand US-Vietnam military engagement and a more secure Indo-Pacific. White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has met with a number of high-ranking Vietnamese officials in a two-day Vietnam visit commencing Friday to “discuss future expansion of economic and security relationship.”

On Saturday, O’Brien held talks with Minister of Public Security To Lam, Minister of Defense Ngo Xuan Lich, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh before paying a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

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White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien has arrived in Hanoi and met with Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam (November 21).

In the meeting with To Lam, the two officials discussed a wide range of security issues regarding transnational crimes. US National Security Advisor discusses broad range of security issues in Hanoi. The visit is believed to expand cooperation on a broad range of security issues.

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US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink (2nd left) and NSA Robert O’Brien (3rd left) at the meeting. Photo: the US Embassy in Hanoi.

The two sides are reported to discuss “joint efforts to combat transnational crime in support of the new US-Mekong Partnership, and to expand cooperation on a broad range of security issues,” the National Security Council (NSC) tweeted.

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NSA O’Brien and Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich talked about the strong cooperation on war legacy issues, which has paved the way for stronger bilateral ties, expanded US-Vietnam military engagement, and a safer secure Indo-Pacific.

NSA O’Brien and Minister of National Defense Lich discussed the strong cooperation on war legacy issues, which has paved the way for stronger bilateral ties, expanded U.S.-Vietnam military engagement, and a safer more secure Indo-Pacific.

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US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Vietnam's Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh.

After meeting with Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, O’Brien said “I was pleased to meet with Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic relations and discuss future expansion of our economic and security relationship to support a free, prosperous, and secure Vietnam.”

Discussions with major Vietnamese government leaders have covered several topics namely security, war legacy, trade, respect to sovereignty and political regimes, common regional challenges.

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US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

In talks with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, war legacy was stressed with the appreciation of the newly-ratified credit worth US$20 million for dioxin cleanup of Bien Hoa airbase which was formally military base of American troop. In addition, they touched support to dioxin/Agent Orange victims, unexploded ordnance (UXO), and searching for persons who went missing in action. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has affirmed that Vietnam regards trade as a key pillar in the relationship with the US.

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US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien at at meeting in Hanoi with Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

For his part, Mr. Phuc said Vietnam has set trade the central part for the bilateral ties, affirming to facilitate US firms in their operations in Vietnam.

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Trade would be momentum for the two countries’ development and Vietnam is willing to facilitate the investment of US businesses, Mr. Phuc said at a meeting with US National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien in his visit to Hanoi on November 21-22.

The Vietnamese PM emphasized the Vietnamese government facilitates US companies operating in Vietnam and encourages hi-tech firms and cooperation between Vietnamese and US companies.

He noted the need to maintain dialogue that is based on mutual respect for mutual interest.

For his part, O’Brien highly appreciated Vietnam’s efforts to balance the two-way trade and increase import of US goods, taking examples of big commercial deals in infrastructure, oil and gas, industrial equipment, airplanes, IT, among others.

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), the US-Vietnam trade totaled an estimated US$81.3 billion in 2019. The US goods and services trade deficit with Vietnam was US$54.5 billion in the same year.

Vietnam was the US’ seventh largest supplier of goods imports in 2019 with US$66.6 billion in 2019, up 35.5% on-year, and up 442.2% from 2009. US imports from Vietnam account for 2.7% of overall US imports in 2019.

In terms of investment, US foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam was US$2.6 billion in 2019, down 8.2% on-year.

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In O’Brien's visit to Hanoi, US and Vietnamese firms signed a power deal worth approximate US$1 billion, the fourth of its kind signed between the US and Vietnam’s companies over the past month.

O’Brien highly appreciated Vietnam’s increasing imports with big contracts in energy, oil and gas, industry, airplane, and IT.

In mid-November, O’Brien attended the virtual 8th ASEAN-US Summit in which he highly appreciated Vietnam’s role in “promoting the ASEAN Centrality” amid “unprecedented challenges” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and affirmed that ASEAN remains central in the US free and open Indo-Pacific.