McCain urges sales of weapons to Vietnam

SINGAPORE — America needs to provide Vietnam with more defensive weapons, U.S. Sen. John McCain said Saturday as tensions in the Asia Pacific region heightened over China’s expanding land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

But U.S. efforts so far are focused on delivering some of the limited maritime weapons allowed under last fall’s easing of the weapons sales ban on Hanoi.

According to a senior U.S. official, Defense Secretary Ash Carter will meet with Vietnam officials in the coming days to discuss the U.S providing the defensive maritime weapons already allowed. Carter spoke at an international security conference here Saturday at the start of an 11-day Asia trip.

McCain, who also was attending the International Institute for Strategic Studies summit, wants to see a gradual removal of the U.S. ban, and said the U.S. should provide additional defensive weapons that could be used in case of a conflict with China. He added that the U.S. should continue its ban on weapons used for crowd control or to commit human rights abuses.

The U.S. last October partially lifted its ban on weapons sales to Vietnam to boost the country’s ability to defend itself in the South China Sea. Only the sale of lethal maritime security and surveillance capabilities are allowed on a case-by-case basis, including boats and air assets based on an evaluation of Vietnam’s needs. But the U.S. official said that to date no weapons have flowed to Vietnam.

The official was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly so spoke on condition of anonymity.

U.S. officials said last fall that easing the ban recognized improvements by Vietnam’s authoritarian government on human rights. But it also was largely driven by America’s national security interests.

Since then, tensions in the South China Sea have only escalated, as China has greatly expanded land reclamation projects to build islands on existing reefs and atolls. On Friday, defense officials revealed that China had put two large artillery vehicles on one of the artificial islands, fueling fears in the U.S and across the Asia-Pacific that China will try to use the land building projects for military purposes or to restrict navigation in the South China Sea.

China has defended its activities in the South China Sea as legitimate. And, when asked about images of weapons on the islands, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was “not aware of the situation you mention.”

Vietnam is a one-party state that squelches dissent, and Amnesty International has said that scores are still being detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The U.S. has not transferred lethal arms to Vietnam since communists took power at the end of the Vietnam War. A 1984 embargo prohibited arms sales because of concern over the authoritarian government’s human rights record.

Relations between the U.S. and Vietnam were normalized in 1995, some 20 years after the war’s end. Washington approved non-lethal arms sales in 2006, and ties have since deepened further, particularly as the Obama administration has sought to expand U.S. engagement in Asia.

Vietnam has been pressing for the lifting on the U.S. ban, and officials there have argued that if the country can’t buy weapons from the U.S., it could still buy from other nations. Russia is currently Vietnam’s main source of armaments.

Talk to us

More in Local News

A car drives by Everett Station where Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin's proposal for its ARPA funds includes funding a child care center at station. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) 20211118
Council approves lease for Bezos Academy at Everett Station

The preschool will be tuition-free. “I just know how darned important it is,” Councilmember Liz Vogeli said.

Jesse Spitzer (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Wanted man fled from Gold Bar to Idaho, police say

Jesse Spitzer, 30, who has a history of violence against officers, is wanted for felonies in two states.

Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, left, speaks on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., during debate on a measure that would delay implementation of a long-term care program and the payroll tax that pays for it. The Senate passed the measure, which was passed by the House last week, and Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the measure on Friday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Delay of Washington’s long-term-care program signed into law

The bill addresses concerns about the program’s solvency and criticism about elements of the underlying law.

Police: Marysville Pilchuck student arrested for wielding knife

Neither of the students involved in the Wednesday morning fight was injured, police reported.

Police looking for Mukilteo bank robber, seeking tips

The man appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, white, slender, about 5-foot-8, with dark blond hair.

Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is deploying 100 members of the state National Guard to hospitals across the state amid staff shortages due to an omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Inslee announced Thursday that teams will be deployed to assist four overcrowded emergency departments at hospitals in Everett, Yakima, Wenatchee and Spokane, and that testing teams will be based at hospitals in Olympia, Richland, Seattle and Tacoma. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Past the omicron peak? Snohomish County’s COVID cases declining

Hospitalizations are still a concern, however, and infections in Eastern Washington and Idaho could have ripple effects here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘White saviorhood’: Mukilteo schools end ‘Mockingbird’ requirement

The book is not banned in the school district. The last book brought before the school board was by Maya Angelou.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Despite Arizona move, Everett leaders expect Funko HQ to stay

The toymaker is closing Everett warehouses. But a recent “HQ2” expansion has the city confident Funko will remain rooted here.

Anthony Boggess
Man charged with first-degree murder for killing of Marysville roommate

Anthony Boggess, 30, reportedly claimed “demons” told him to hurt people. He’s accused of killing James Thrower, 65.

Most Read