WASHINGTON (AA) – The U.S. will lift the ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam, President Barack Obama announced Monday.
The announcement came on the first day of a three-day visit to Vietnam.
Lifting the ban on lethal weapons is part of a deeper defense cooperation with Vietnam and not related to China, but a result of a desire to complete a normalization process between the U.S. and Vietnam that began in 1995, Obama said during a joint news conference with Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quan in the capital, Hanoi.
The American president’s visit marked another "crucial milestone" in the U.S.-Vietnamese relationship and creates "strong momentum" for a more comprehensive partnership in the future, according to Quang.
Vietnam has long sought the removal of the arms sale ban.
After the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the U.S. withdrew its combat forces from the country and the North Vietnamese began a major offensive to reunite the North and South under communism.
Following the country’s reunification in 1976, the U.S. closed its embassy in Vietnam, withdrew personnel and instituted an arms embargo.
The removal of the ban on arms sale comes amid tensions linked to territorial claims in the South China Sea between China and some of its neighbors, including Vietnam.
Also as part of the normalization process, trade between U.S. and Vietnam has "nearly tripled in the last seven years, and now tops $45 billion," according to the White House.