I would like to thank all of you who signed this petition underscoring Americans' concern for human rights in Vietnam and the United States-Vietnam relationship. As our dialogue with Vietnam evolves, we are especially cognizant of the views of the Vietnamese community in the U.S.
The United States will remain diligent in pursuing progress on human rights in our high-level engagement as we pursue a wide array of security, economic, and strategic interests with Vietnam. In our discussions with the Vietnamese government, we emphasize that progress on human rights, including the release of political prisoners and freedom of religion, is a necessary part of improving United States-Vietnam relations. Secretary of State Clinton raised our human rights concerns with President Sang when they met at the November 2011 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii. U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear has raised similar concerns in all of his high-level meetings since arriving in Vietnam last August, and he and the Mission regularly engage Vietnamese government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and other individuals as part of our Government's commitment to promote greater respect for human rights in Vietnam.
During the annual United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue meeting in November, I, along with Ambassador-At-Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook and other high-level officials, urged Vietnam to release all political prisoners, strengthen religious freedom, ratify and implement the Convention Against Torture, and take other steps to protect and promote universal human rights.
My colleague, Kurt Campbell, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, underscored these concerns directly with Vietnamese officials during his most recent visit to Hanoi on February 2. Read a transcript of his press conference in Hanoi here (PDF).
In addition, our engagement with Vietnam on trade, including through its interest in the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) and its participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, has provided opportunities to raise these issues. Both GSP and TPP include commitments to labor rights protections, including freedom of association.
The Obama Administration is committed to an ongoing dialogue with the Vietnamese American community. On March 5, 2012, my colleagues and I participated in a briefing held by the White House Office of Public Engagement for 165 Vietnamese Americans from 30 states who work across diaspora communities in order to promote human rights, global partnerships, and opportunities for Vietnamese abroad. During the meeting, we stressed that human rights issues are a key component of ongoing discussions with Vietnam and that the United States continuously engages Vietnam on human rights through many different channels, including the annual United States-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue.
I encourage everyone involved in this petition to continue to express your views and concerns to the Administration, and most importantly to the Vietnamese government. I also encourage you to follow our work on http://www.humanrights.gov. (Also, see the State Department's 2010 Human Rights Report for Vietnam and the latest International Religious Freedom Report for Vietnam).
We look forward to meaningful dialogue and partnerships with your community in the future.
Michael Posner is Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at Department of State