A predestined way with Asia and Vietnam

 In an interview, the ambassador Kritenbrink shared his diplomatic assignment in Asia and then became an American Ambassador in Vietnam as a predestined way. “Actually, at the starting line, I wanted to be an expert on the Soviet Union, not Asia. I studied the history of the Soviet Union. I also had a chance to go to the Soviet Union. But then, one day, I went to the head professor's office at the university. He asked me: "Do you want to go to Japan?" Then he gave me an opportunity to study in Japan as an exchange student for one year. And indeed, those experiences changed my life. It made me have great confidence in educational exchange activities. I lived with a Japanese family, learned a new language, and thus understood more about Japan, Asia, America, and myself. All these have motivated me to be a diplomatist, working in foreign countries.

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The USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier and USS Bunker Hill cruiser arrived at Tien Sa Port, Da Nang city on March 5, for a scheduled visit commemorating 25 years of Vietnam - US diplomatic relation
 

When asked about the feelings of being nominated as ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Kritenbrink described: “It was a dream to be true when I was able to represent my country in an important country like Vietnam. I am so excited to work here because I am very optimistic about the future of the two countries' relations. Before coming to Vietnam, his family lived in Northern Virginia and a nearby Vietnamese restaurant was always his family's favorite location.

A successful tenure

Since the tenure of the ambassador Kritenbrink, the Vietnam-US partnership has never gained such strong and positive achievement. During the past three years, under his tenure, he has significantly contributed to the high-level meetings including two visits of President Donald Trump, four visits of the US Secretary of State, and three visits of the US Secretary of Defense to Vietnam. At least 12 US senators, many members of Congress, and the Cabinet have visited Vietnam during President Trump's term. Before coming to Vietnam and taking on the mission as the ambassador,  Ambassador Kritenbrink presented to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee in September 2017 a statement consists of five key priorities. These include security cooperation, economic and trade cooperation, handling of war-legacy issues, people-to-people exchanges, and ultimately human rights issues. Obviously, in the past 3 years, in terms of results, the ambassador would be very proud to say that the US and Vietnam have had progressively in all 5 fields.

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U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink, together with Prof. Dr. Tran Van Thuan, Deputy Minister of Health, and Dr. Ta Thanh Van, President Hanoi Medical University, opened the Smithsonian Institution’s “Outbreak: Epidemics in a Connected World” Exhibition at Hanoi Medical University
 

In terms of security and defense, the United States and Vietnam have shared important security interests, including upholding international laws, implementing the rights for freedom of navigation and air space, and resisting the violations of international conventions in the East Sea (South China Sea).

During in the past two years, the US Coast Guard has handed over 18 patrol boats and a 115m - long coastal cruiser with a tonnage of 3,000 tons to the Vietnam Coast Guard, the US Coast Guard staffs and Vietnamese sailors together drove this ship back to Vietnam. During the visit to Hanoi in November 2019, Defense Minister Mark Esper agreed to expand this program with the delivery of a second coastal cruiser by 2020. Also in 2019, two Vietnamese pilots were trained with US officers in the US Air Force's Aviation Leadership Program.

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In March 2018, Vietnam and the United States celebrated the first visit of a US aircraft carrier since the end of the war with the historic five-day visit of the USS CARL VINSON to Danang for exchanging issues of expertise, participating in community exchange activities and media events. To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the US - Vietnam relations, Vietnam welcomed another visit of the USS Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group to Danang in March 2020.

From 1995 up to now, after 25 - year normalization and establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries Vietnam - the US, the export and import turnover of Vietnam to the US has grown rapidly. If the export turnover from Vietnam to the US would only reach $169.7 million and import turnover reached 130.4 million USD in 1995, this number has increased hundreds of times (exports reached 60.7 billion USD; imports reached 14.3 billion USD) in 2019. The trade balance in 2019 between Vietnam and the US always maintains a surplus with the export surplus to the US market reaching 46.4 billion USD. Currently, the US is the largest export market of Vietnam. “Our future is connected. Vietnam's success is also our success. The prosperity of Vietnam is our prosperity”, the US Ambassador affirmed.

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2020 was a tough year for the whole world, including the US and Vietnam because of the Covid-19 pandemic. However, “a friend in need is a friend indeed”, during Ambassador Kritenbrink’s term, the US and Vietnam have made a good team while dealing with the pandemic. “In my opinion, Vietnam is probably the best country in the world in defending the Covid-19 pandemic. It is such an impressive achievement of Vietnam that makes us feel proud to be a partner of Vietnam during the past time. I am so proud of seeing us creating miracles together in such a difficult situation like this year”, the Ambassador said. 

During the past 25 years, the US has spent nearly a billion dollars on medical aid for Vietnam. Last year, the US government also provided 13 million dollars and 100 ventilators to help Vietnam respond to Covid-19 epidemic. Meanwhile, the Vietnamese government and people have also donated medical equipment, supplies, masks, and many other things for the US. The image of the two countries standing side by side, working as a team and mutually supporting each other will certainly become a remarkable memory for Ambassador Kritenbrink during his term. “Yet I cannot take the credit to all myself, since it’s the achievement made by nearly a thousand associates in our diplomatic delegation in Vietnam, along with the support and guidance from Washington DC”, Ambassador Kritenbrink shared his thoughts. “I always say that “A man must eat a peck of salt with his friend before he knows him”, 2020 has helped us realize that Vietnam is a true friend of the United States. We appreciate the Vietnamese government and people for donating equipment, medical supplies, masks and many other things for the US. These contributions have indeed helped save a lot of American lives, and we are so grateful for that.” 

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Ambassador Kritenbrink heads to Kim Lien Pagoda, one of Hanoi’s oldest pagodas, to mark the upcoming Kitchen Gods Day

As to himself, the Ambassador has regarded the “real dream” three years ago as a rare privilege of his life. “Becoming an American ambassador to Vietnam is a rare privilege for me. We have been making a lot of achievements together, yet I think this is just a step of momentum for the unconstrained development of this bilateral relationship - since the sky is the only limit for this relationship. I’m extremely positive about that” “I have been to many places in Vietnam, from the North to the Central and  the South. Everywhere I’ve been to, I was so impressed with the beauty of Vietnam.  I often recalled how Hanoi citizens love to communicate. They often sit on plastic chairs on the sidewalks and chat happily. That is the image I can never forget. Now I wish if only I could stay in Vietnam forever”.

Looking back on his tenure, Ambassador Daniel affirmed “During the last three years, we have tightened the friendship between Vietnam and the US. Anyone who looked at my six predecessors’ term will praise that the relationship between the two countries was at its best at the end of their term, and we have gained many achievements, but how to overcome such milestones? I also feel the same way about my tenure.