Clinton: U.S. is ready for 'next level' in ties
The Obama administration is ready to move to the "next level" of close relations with Vietnam despite concerns and "profound differences" over human rights, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during a visit to Hanoi on Thursday.
The administration sees Vietnam "as not only important on its own merits, but as part of a strategy aimed at enhancing American engagement in the Asia Pacific, and in particular Southeast Asia," Clinton said after a meeting with Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem.
On the last stop of a week-long trip that also took her to Pakistan, Afghanistan and South Korea, Clinton is in Vietnam to attend a regional security conference and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the reestablishment of diplomatic relations under then-President Bill Clinton 25 years after the end of the Vietnam War.
"For me personally and for my husband . . . this anniversary is especially poignant," she said at a lunch given by the local American Chamber of Commerce. The two visited Vietnam, along with their daughter, Chelsea, in late 2000 on the last foreign trip of his presidency.
"Frankly, we weren't sure exactly what to expect," Clinton said, adding that the warm reception they received had a "profound impact."
During her meeting with Khiem, he gave her a white tablecloth for Chelsea, who is getting married July 31. He also presented Clinton with a gem-studded portrait of her and her daughter, laughing and wearing conical Vietnamese hats, copied from a photograph taken during the 2000 visit.
-- Karen DeYoung
Violence kills 24 in south and north
Gunmen killed at least five Yemeni soldiers Thursday in a suspected al-Qaeda ambush of a military convoy in the southern province of Shabwa, the third assault on state targets in five weeks blamed on the group's resurgent regional arm.