“If I there was a magic lamp, I would wish that Vietnam has more capacity to carry out educational development activities,” said the US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink during an online exchange with VietNamNet readers on July 8.
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink and Editor-in-chief Pham Anh Tuan (centre) at VietNamNet's studio.
Following is the online exchange:
Journalist Dieu Thuy: Twenty-five years ago, on the night of July 11, 1995, US President Bill Clinton declared the normalization of relations with Vietnam. On the next morning of July 12, Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet read the statement on establishing diplomatic relations with the US.
Over the last 25 years, leaving behind hatred and suspicion, the US-Vietnam relationship entered a completely new period with outstanding developments in many fields. The two sides have been looking for a common voice on many issues, including sensitive issues that are barriers in bilateral relations, to strive for mutual benefit and development.
On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of establishment of Vietnam - US diplomatic relations, VietNamNet invited to the online exchange a very special guest, US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink.
Dieu Thuy: Tuan Anh, a reader from Hanoi, has a question. What were you doing when US President Bill Clinton declared the normalization of relations with Vietnam?
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink: At that moment, I had just started my diplomatic career. I joined the US State Department to work as a diplomat in 1994. At the time of normalization, I was serving at the US Consulate in Japan and I remember watching the news on normalization in the media. This was really a historic event.
Dieu Thuy: Many readers have been interested in Vietnam-US relations over the last 25 years and the future of relations. Nguyen Kien Dung, a reader, has a question: Do you think that Vietnam-US relations will be upgraded to a strategic one in the near future?
Daniel Kritenbrink: I totally agree with the readers that the current relations between the two countries are the best ever and are better than expected. I believe that the relations we have now are not some miracle, but are the result of the great efforts we have made over many years. I am very proud and believe we can celebrate what has been achieved.
Vietnam is a good friend
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink and journalist Dieu Thuy.
Dieu Thuy: “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. Your words at a recent event really touched me. And the US can be confident that you now have a very good friend, Vietnam.
Daniel Kritenbrink: Now we know that Vietnam is a good friend. We feel touched as thousands of Vietnamese organizations and people have donated protective masks and medical equipment for the US. I believe that Vietnam has been doing very well in fighting against Covid-19. So, we can meet directly and celebrate the 25th anniversary of our establishment of relations in the second half of the year.
Covid-19 is really a big challenge for us. However, the pandemic shows how close our cooperation is.
Dieu Thuy: How has Covid-19 had an impact on trade relations between the two countries?
Daniel Kritenbrink: I can see that medical cooperation between the two sides is very positive. The Covid-19 period shows how well the two countries have cooperated.
The challenge for us is how to restart the regional and global economy. We have had many discussions, and I hope we will overcome all challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Wishes for prosperity for Vietnam
Dieu Thuy: Vietnamese people highly appreciate your historic visit to the Truong Son Martyrs Cemetery and Hien Luong Bridge in Quang Tri province. Could you please tell us about your feelings?
Daniel Kritenbrink: I had a very emotional and profound experience both personally and as an ambassador. My goal in carrying out these activities is to show respect and honor for those who have sacrificed for the fatherland.
We want to show the efforts made for reconciliation. We should let go of the past and promote our relationships in the future, contributing to the building of the future for the next generations.
We are actively dealing with the dioxin issue and together building trust together. We cannot change the tragic past we have, but we are committed to work together to build a better future.
I really love Vietnam. My family and I are always warmly welcomed everywhere we go. I have met many Vietnamese leaders and we have discussed many issues. But the most important thing is that we need to strengthen exchanges between the two sides. We always aim to support Vietnam to gain prosperity and independence.
Dieu Thuy: A question from Regina, a reader: Could you please talk about the ideas to promote cooperation between the two countries and settle the consequences of the war?
Daniel Kritenbrink: We are committed to handling the problems left by the war. The search for the missing in the war is the fundamental issue in building cooperative relations between the two countries. We are grateful to Vietnam for the finding of 727 remains of American servicemen missing in the war.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper visited Vietnam last year. And I am about to witness the signing ceremony between US and Vietnam cooperation agencies.
We have been cooperating with Vietnam on dioxin remediation. In 2018, I participated in a dioxin cleansing event in Da Nang City. We are also proud of our cooperation with Vietnam in mine and UXO removal.
In 2019, the US began extending support to treat people affected by dioxin.
Vietnam is very beautiful
Dieu Thuy: This is a question from a reader, Hoang Chuong: Is there any difference in the impression of Vietnam among American people before 1995 and after that time?
Daniel Kritenbrink: I think there is a huge difference in American’s perception of Vietnam 25-30 years ago compared with today. Before 1995, the majority of US people would think of war when they heard about Vietnam. But they don’t now. I think what they know about Vietnam is the same as I know Vietnam today, a beautiful, peaceful country.
They have such information because hundreds of thousands of businesses and travelers come to Vietnam, and 30,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the US.
The American and Vietnamese people don’t think about the past anymore. The American people think of Vietnam as a wonderful country.
Vietnam was the host country of the US- Democratic People's Republic of Korea Summit in February 2019. You had impressive diplomatic achievements. The summit changed the world’s thoughts about Vietnam.
Many friends of mine then wrote to me that Vietnam is really beautiful and they want to come to Vietnam. My friends really like Vietnamese food.
We are proud that we have 2 million Vietnamese-born American people. They are the ambassadors of Vietnamese cuisine in the US. My home is in Virginia, which is very near to a Vietnamese center. I really like bread and pho, and in Hanoi, I really like bun cha and cha ca.
Dieu Thuy: A question from reader Bui Thanh Mai: You may know that the War Invalids and Martyrs Day, July 27, is very significant to Vietnamese veterans and their families. Do you have any plans to meet veterans on this day or to take part in any activities with Vietnamese veterans?
Daniel Kritenbrink: Thank you for telling me about July 27. I find meeting with veterans a good idea. Three years ago, many officials advised me to contact veterans. And I met some veterans, including those from provincial veterans' associations.
During the meetings, we shared our thoughts to promote healing.
In the latest event which took place in Thanh Hoa, we went to Ham Rong Bridge, including Vietnamese and US veterans, and me.
The US also has activities to support veterans. I visited the Friendship Village and donated equipment. We will continue to interact with veterans.
Dieu Thuy: Among the fields of cooperation between the two countries, the relationship in education has been given special attention. Vietnam is the Southeast Asian country with the highest number of students in the US. What would you wish for if you had a magic lamp like Aladdin’s?
Daniel Kritenbrink: I think educational cooperation activities are very important and they contribute to the US-Vietnam relationship in general.
I am impressed by the contributions of students in the US and when they return to Vietnam. The exchange in education makes a great contribution to bilateral friendship relations. The 30,000 Vietnamese students in the US are 30,000 Vietnamese cultural ambassadors.
We encourage students to study in the US and this is really a wonderful experience. We also encourage US students to study in other countries, because this will help a lot. It is the experience of studying abroad that motivated me to strive to become a diplomat. I was also an exchange student and this changed my life for the better.
Regarding the question about a magic lamp, I really look forward to the development of Fulbright University in Vietnam. This is a way for Vietnamese people to access world-class education right in Vietnam.
The US will fulfill the commitment to help Vietnam develop education, including teaching English.
If I had a magic lamp, I’d love to see Vietnam develop more capability for hosting international exchanges in education. There are 30,000 Vietnamese students in the US, but there are fewer than 2,000 American students studying in Vietnam, Though the figure is growing, it still is modest and I want to increase it further. And I’d love to see Vietnam receive 30,000 US students every year, who act as US ambassadors to Vietnam.
Last night I had the honor to host four former Vietnamese Ambassadors to have dinner at my home. They said when we better understand each other, we will respect each other more. I think that education exchanges would help promote that friendship for mutual understanding.
Dieu Thuy: A question from reader Pham Xuan Quy: What is your view about Vietnam’s role in the US’s Indo-Pacific strategy?
Daniel Kritenbrink: We think that Vietnam is central to our strategy. It’s important to know that in November 2017, during his first visit to Vietnam, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech in Da Nang that outlined the US’s vision for the Indo-Pacific.
If you look at our foreign policies historically, you may see the belief that the US can be stronger, more prosperous, and more secure if we have strong, successful and independent partners and friends around the world. That is why we are interested in Vietnam’s success. A strong sovereign Vietnam will help develop our relations. And not only Vietnam, but all 10 ASEAN countries.
We also have other partners in the region, including Australia, New Zealand and South Korea. We believe that when working together, we will promote common interests and ensure respect for international laws.
Dieu Thuy: Vietnam wants to be a friend to all countries. Will the US be a best friend of Vietnam? What should the international community do to ensure security, safety and freedom in navigation in the South China Sea? Why is the US, the world’s largest economy, still not the largest investor in Vietnam? This is a question from Nguyen Minh Duc, a reader.
Daniel Kritenbrink: We are now best friends. Following what we have achieved in the last 25 years, we will gain more achievements in the next 25 years. There is no limitation for relations between the two sides.
This is an interesting question. Maritime security plays an important role for each country and the whole region. It is important that we respect and adhere to international laws, and that all nations respect each other's interests. We protest against the countries’ behaviors of using force to bully other countries for their own interests. We also oppose the efforts by some countries in the region to interfere in the long-standing oil and gas exploitation activities of other countries.
We would like to explain the US's strategy in the East Sea. The first main element is diplomacy. The US will cooperate with countries in the region to solve international disputes to ensure freedom of navigation and overflight in the region.
The second focus is that we will help countries in the region strengthen their monitoring capacity and ensure their rights.
The third one is to continue developing our capabilities and implement our rights in the region. That's why you see the US Navy presence in the region. These activities are designed to demonstrate our commitments in the region.
Vietnamese language is beautiful
Dieu Thuy: Our reader Tran Tuan wants to know how you learned to speak Vietnamese and what the most difficult thing was when learning Vietnamese.
Daniel Kritenbrink: Let me say a couple of things. First of all, my Vietnamese is very bad. I really hope my Vietnamese will be better in the future. Since I began working in Vietnam, I haven't had much time to learn Vietnamese, and this is a challenge. However, I find Vietnamese a beautiful language.
The pronunciation is the most difficult thing for me when learning Vietnamese. Sometimes the staff at the embassy often suggest that I speak Vietnamese, but when I say it aloud, they say ‘no, wrong’. Sometimes when I am out, I try to speak Vietnamese, but people don’t understand. I hope my Vietnamese skills will be better as I stay longer in Vietnam.
War veterans from Vietnam and the US get together on Ham Rong Bridge, northern Thanh Hoa province in celebration of the 25th founding anniversary of diplomatic relations.
US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink has highlighted the two countries’ cooperation, as the 25th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations (July 12) is just around the corner.