In Hanoi on Monday during the first leg of a historic trip to Asia, U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the U.S. will lift an embargo on arms sales to Vietnam that had been in place since 1975. Later this week, on the second part of the tour, Obama plans to visit Hiroshima, Japan to honor victims of the 1945 American atomic bombing — making him the first sitting U.S. president to do so.
These moves have elicited mixed reactions both internationally and among Obama’s constituents at home. But speaking with Christiane Amanpour on CNN Monday, Asia Society Policy Institute President Kevin Rudd said that both acts have been a long time coming. “Remember, it’s 20 years since the Americans normalized their diplomatic relations with Hanoi,” he said of the resumption of arms sales to Vietnam. “And it follows that this is one of those things which was going to eventually come.”
Many analysts suspect that lifting the embargo is a move to counter China — which is becoming more assertive in South China Sea territorial disputes with Vietnam and other countries in the region. But Rudd noted that Beijing did not appear to interpret the news in this way. “I’ve looked carefully at the statements coming out of the Chinese foreign ministry,” Rudd noted. “And they seem to be remarkably calm and balanced in their response, saying that the lifting of this arms embargo is removing one of the last vestiges of the Cold War.”
In regards to Obama’s Hiroshima visit, Rudd recalled that when he went to the city in 2008 as prime minister of Australia, he was told that he was the first Allied head of government to visit. “It struck me as puzzling that we’d left it 60 years-plus for such visits to occur,” he said. “There is no inherent contradiction here … no one’s seeking to revisit the decisions taken by President [Harry] Truman back in 1945 against the impossible military circumstances at the time.”
Watch Rudd’s complete interview with Amanpour in the above video.