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Vietnam: Hanoi Rumour Mill on Leaders Visits By Carlyle A. Thayer

C3S Paper No. 0065/ 2015

Our office has received various reports concerning visits by high-level U.S. and Vietnamese officials to each other’s countries this year.

Reuters reported that Nguyen Phu Trong, the Secretary General of the Vietnam Communist Party, will visit the United States. This report is vague about the purpose of the visit and what issues might be on the agenda.

The visit is reported to be scheduled for July (other reports say May).

There are reports that President Barack Obama will receive Secretary General Trong in the Oval Office.

The local media in Vietnam reported that Secretary General Trong will visit the United States at the invitation of President Obama. Press report state, “upon the U.S’s invitation, party chief Trong will visit the U.S”. It is unclear who invited Trong, the U.S. President or Secretary of State John Kerry.

Why would the U.S. invited Secretary General Trong who does not hold a position in the Vietnamese government or state?

Finally, we have received reports that the new U.S Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will visit Vietnam in May.

Can you share with us what your sources are telling you?

ANSWER: Vietnam has lobbied the United States for a visit by Secretary General Nguyen Phu Trong and the U.S. has responded positively. My sources say the details of Secretary General Trong’s visit, including the exact dates, are still being worked out with mid-year the goal (May-June). Until these dates are agreed The White House will not confirm a meeting with President Obama. Vietnam is insistent on a Obama-Trong meeting. It can only be speculated that if advance planning continues and agreement on dates is reached it follows that Trong will meet Obama. It is unlikely that the U.S. would host two high levels visits from Vietnam in one year in such a short time period. Besides two other Southeast Asian heads of state are scheduled to visit the U.S. this year.

President Obama’s visit to Hanoi is still being discussed by officials from both sides. President Obama is scheduled to attend the APEC Leaders’ Summit in Manila late this year. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is likely to visit Vietnam around the time of the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore (late May-early June usually). Secretary Kerry will come a month later.

(Article reprinted with the permission of the author Carlyle A. Thayer, Emeritus Professor,The University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, Canberra email:

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