The US on 3 October 2014 announced to lift 40 years long ban on arms sales to Vietnam to boost sea defence in the South China Sea.
The decision to lift the ban partially was taken after the meeting between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh in Washington. Minh who is also the foreign minister of Vietnam was on a visit to the US.
The ban on arm sales was lifted partially and applied only to supply of lethal and non-lethal weapons for maritime security purposes. A prohibition on sales of other kinds of lethal weapons like tanks would stay in place. The ban was put in place after the end of Vietnam War in 1975.
The decision was taken after Vietnam showed positive improvements in the area of human rights record and a full lift of ban may take place if Vietnam would make additional progress in this area.
With this, Vietnam will be able to improve its maritime domain awareness and maritime security capabilities. Besides, it would make it possible for Vietnam to receive patrol boats equipped with defensive capabilities to conduct maritime security activities.
The lifting of ban partially comes amidst the heightened tensions in the South China Sea region. The move would certainly anger China who has been involved in dispute with countries surrounding the South China Sea.
However, it would certainly make Malaysia and the countries in the region will be happy to see Vietnam enhance its capabilities. Although the US has not taken sides in the territorial disputes, it has warned Beijing against destabilising actions amid a series of tense incidents.
South China Sea that witnesses about 40 percent of maritime trade is claimed in part by Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia as well as China and The Philippines.
Further the decision would lift the relationship between the US and Vietnam psychologically. Having that embargo was the thorn in the side of those pushing for closer ties.
Who: The US
Where: to Vietnam
When: 3 October 2014