Obama quizzes Vietnam president on rights
Sang jeered on arrival at White House and has "very candid" talk with Obama
President Obama (picture:ChameleonsEye%20/%20<a%20href="http:/www.shutterstock.com/?cr=00&pl=edit-00">Shutterstock.com" target="_blank">Shutterstock)
US President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he has urged his Vietnamese counterpart President Truong Tan Sang to strengthen freedom of speech and of religion in his country.
The US leader spoke after what he described as "very candid" talks at the White House with the South East Asian leader.
"The United States continues to believe that all of us have to respect issues like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly," Obama told reporters at the Oval Office with Sang at his side.
"We had a very candid conversation about both the progress that Vietnam is making and the challenges that remain," he said.
Several lawmakers have accused Obama of merely mentioning human rights and said he should have made progress a condition for further improvements in relations.
Sang, who acknowledged "differences" between the two countries on human rights, said that Obama had promised to visit Vietnam by the end of his second term. Obama, who would be the third successive US president to visit Vietnam, is expected in the region in October for summits in Bali and Brunei.
President Truong Tan Sang was only the second Vietnamese head of state to visit the White House since the normalization of relations in 1975 and he was jeered on his arrival by hundreds of Vietnamese Americans, many waving the flags of the former Saigon regime and chanting slogans that were occasionally audible inside the White House.
"What we want to do is respect human rights and freedom in Vietnam," said demonstrator Huu Dinh Vo of the Federation of Vietnamese American Communities.
"Okay, you can invite him [Sang], but you have to put on the table pressure to push the Vietnamese communists to comply with international law and human rights and freedom like in other countries," he said.
But the two leaders looked upbeat during their meeting at the Oval Office, with Obama saying that Sang showed him a letter written by revolutionary Ho Chi Minh to former US president Harry Truman that voiced hope for strong relations, two decades before their war started. AFP
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