China has said the United States should stop its unprovoked accusations and attacks.
The main concern in Vietnam is China’s claims in the South China Sea.
China’s U-shaped “nine-dash line” on its maps marks a vast expanse of the sea it claims, including swathes of Vietnam’s continental shelf where it has awarded oil concessions and where Chinese and Vietnamese ships have in recent years been embroiled in months-long standoffs.
Pompeo’s trip came as Vietnam and the United States mark the 25th anniversary of the normalizing of diplomatic ties. But it also came a week after Hanoi released a Vietnamese-born U.S. citizen sentenced to 12 years in jail for “attempting to overthrow the state.”
Hours before Pompeo’s arrival, Vietnam’s foreign ministry released a statement saying the man, Michael Nguyen, who returned to his home in California last week, was released for humanitarian reasons.
The statement made no reference to Nguyen’s account of his arrest and interrogation, including his claim in a news conference on Wednesday that he had been kidnapped.
Pompeo on Friday met Vietnam’s Minister of Public Security To Lam, whose office is in charge of tracking dissidents in the communist-ruled country.
Bitter enemies during the Vietnam War in the 1960s and early 1970s, Hanoi and Washington have enjoyed significantly warmer relations in recent years.
But there have some trade tensions of late, with the U.S. Trade Representative confirming in August that it was investigating whether Vietnam had been undervaluing its dong currency and harming U.S. commerce.
Prime Minister Phuc this week called on President Donald Trump to have “a more objective assessment of the reality in Vietnam” with regards to the trade imbalance. (Reporting by James Pearson and pool reports Writing by Ed Davies Editing by Robert Birsel)