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March 23, 2011: Nguyen Manh Hung and Carlyle Thayer

(Click to enlarge) From left to right, Professor Carlyle Thayer and Dr. Nguyen Manh Hung discuss the positive outlook for US-Vietnam relations.

The Outlook for US-Vietnam Relations


Presentation Materials:
Nguyen PowerPoint
Thayer PowerPoint

Related Publications:


Asia Pacific Bulletin No. 92 , by Nguyen Manh Hung
Asia Pacific Bulletin No. 69 , by Nguyen Manh Hung
Asia Pacific Bulletin No. 67 , by Carlyle Thayer

WASHINGTON, DC (March 29, 2011) -- In 2010, both the United States and Vietnam affirmed their commitment to improving bilateral relations. The two countries are strengthening their strategic partnership and economic ties through high-level visits and dialogues; all the while US trade and investment in Vietnam and student exchanges show steady growth. Despite the changed political landscape in both countries, both Dr. Nguyen Manh Hung and Professor Carlyle Thayer agreed that there is much room for positive growth, especially because there is no longer a conflict of strategic interests between the US and Vietnam.


According to Dr. Nguyen, the two major factors which will influence the future of bilateral realtions are Vietnam’s perception of China’s behavior and Vietnam’s perception of America’s intentions and commitment to being engaged in the Asia-Pacific region. Although Dr. Nguyen believes that US concerns regarding human rights in Vietnam may hinder efforts to strengthen economic and political relations, he also mentioned that prospects for cooperation on the topic have improved since the recent 11th Part y Congress. Dr. Nguyen noted that “the pressure for reform… and some tentative efforts to implement political reform in Vietnam  also contribute to a pattern of Vietnam moving forward to better human rights practices and a  more liberalized society, that would close the gap of regime incompatibility between Vietnam and the United States.”


Recently, defense cooperation between the two countries has also increased. Professor Thayer explained that apart from a desire to modernize the military, the Vietnamese are mostly seeking guidance from the US to improve their logistics management capabilities and military infrastructure. Regarding cooperation during joint exercises, he also argued that “the Vietnamese are there, not to balance China, but to see what’s available through these exercises and how it can benefit.” Professor Thayer concluded by highlighting Vietnam’s key role in Southeast Asia; he believes that the door is open for the developing of further defense relations between the United States and Vietnam in 2011 and the future.


Nguyen Manh Hung is a professor in the Department of Public and International Affairs at George Mason University. A former Fulbright scholar and Social Science Research Council fellow, Dr. Nguyen is the author of several books, book chapters, and articles in journals, such as World Affairs , Asian Survey , Pacific Affairs , Amerasia Journal , and Journal of Asian Thought and Society. He has participated in many major policy working groups on Vietnam and Indochina and chaired several committees to reorganize the Vietnamese civil service. In the past, he has served as planning advisor to the President of the National Economic Development Fund, previously the Deputy Minister of National Planning of the Republic of Vietnam. Prior to 1975, he was a professor of international politics at the National School of Public Administration and the University of Saigon, Vietnam. Dr. Nguyen received his PhD in international relations from the University of Virginia.


Carlyle A. Thayer is Emeritus Professor at The University of New South Wales (UNSW) at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. Professor Thayer is a Southeast Asia regional specialist with an expertise on Vietnam. After joining the UNSW, he first taught at The Royal Military College-Duntroon (1979-85) and then at the Australian Defence Force Academy (1985-present). In 2005, he was the C. V. Starr Distinguished Visiting Professor at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and was the Inaugural Frances M. and Stephen H. Fuller Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ohio University in 2008. Professor Thayer is the author of over 400 publications, including Southeast Asia: Patterns of Security Cooperation (Australian Strategic Policy Institute Strategy Report, 2010) and V ietnam People’s Army: Development and Modernization (Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, 2009). He holds a PhD in international relations from The Australian National University.