When former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam 15 years ago, few would have predicted the breadth and depth of cooperation between the 2 former adversaries.
Despite a bitter history of conflict between the 2, stemming from a decade of U.S. involvement in the Second Indochina War, followed by Vietnam's fifteen year occupation of Cambodia and the resulting international isolation of Vietnam; on that July day in 1995, the 2 countries agreed to turn their backs on their acrimonious past, and look toward the future as allies.
Speaking at the recent "American Experience in Southeast Asia" conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that "the progress between Vietnam and the United States has been breathtaking. ... Our trade agreement has created jobs and spurred growth on both sides of the Pacific. Our friendship has become an anchor of security and stability in the region. An entire generation of young people has grown up knowing only peace between Vietnam and America, and the relationships that they are forming through educational and cultural exchanges, through new businesses and social networks are drawing us even closer together," said Secretary Clinton:
"All over the world, we see the bitter legacy of old conflicts and enmities. It is a source of many of our most persistent challenges. ... But how remarkable it is that the American and Vietnamese people have decided to leave behind a history they could not change and embrace a future that we can shape together."
"I ... hope that our commitment to a shared future, despite our shared history, can serve as an inspiration and even a model to others," said Secretary of State Clinton. "In today’s world, it is more imperative than ever that we seek to end conflict and to look for ways that we can connect based on our common humanity.
"I think there is an enormous amount that still lies ahead of what we can do together as we deepen and broaden our relationship. And I am confident that the next 15 years will bring the United States and Vietnam closer together."