Vice President Harris said that issues of human rights and political dissent were discussed with government officials during her visit to Vietnam, adding that the U.S. will not shy away from difficult conversations with the country.
“We’re not going to shy away from difficult conversations. Difficult conversations often must be had with the people that you otherwise may have a partnership with. And we do have a partnership with Vietnam,” Harris told reporters in Hanoi on Thursday.
When asked if she received any commitments to secure the release of Vietnamese dissidents, the vice president said the issue was discussed “both with the leaders of the Vietnamese government, as well as with civil society leaders – because it is a real concern for the United States.”
Harris was in Vietnam as the second stop in her first trip to Asia as vice president. She met with officials in Singapore before heading to Vietnam.
“Freedom of navigation is a high priority for us; it relates not only to security, but also to commerce. And what we must do to continue to speak up when necessary about human rights issues. And we’ll continue to do that,” Harris added during remarks in Hanoi that came amid tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea.
The vice president also said there is a “reciprocal relationship” with Vietnam around helping citizens during the COVID-19 global health crisis and a relationship with Vietnam as it relates to U.S. “economic strength.”
She mentioned that Vietnam helped the U.S. around providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and the U.S. is helping Vietnam with vaccines.
Harris announced on Wednesday that the U.S. donated an additional 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Vietnam, on top of about 5 million shots already provided from the U.S. supply.
Harris left Vietnam on Thursday for Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii with a refuel stop in Guam. She will participate in a troop engagement event in Hawaii and then travel to San Francisco.