Vietnam party chief to make U.S. trip: ambassador

Vietnam party chief to make U.S. trip: ambassador

Vietnam's Communist Party chief will visit the United States this year, Washington's ambassador said on Friday, in a landmark trip underlining a rapid strengthening of ties between the two countries.

Nguyen Phu Trong would be the first party general secretary to visit the United States, which will also receive Vietnam's Minister of Public Security.

Their trips will come amid recent advancements in ties between two countries that are currently marking 20 years since normalizing relations.

"Regular high-level visits help both sides understand and grow more comfortable with each other," U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said in a speech at a Hanoi university.

"And this mutual understanding is turning talk into action."

U.S. engagement went into a new gear in the middle of last year with a flurry of high-level visits to Vietnam that coincided with Hanoi's maritime territorial row with China.

The United States has been pouring in aid and assistance to Vietnam in health, education, landmines clearance, scholarships and nuclear energy. More recently, activities involving their armed forces have stepped up.

Defence cooperation was previously limited by a lethal arms embargo, which Washington started to ease in October, enabling humanitarian exercises between both militaries late last year.

Analysts say Vietnam's interests are in persifying its ties beyond China, while the United States wants to court a new ally in Hanoi as part of its moves to strengthen its influence in Asia as a counterbalance to Beijing's rise.

Osius said it was understandable Vietnam would look to its "historic partners", but the United States would play its part.

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