>> Will America's old enemy become its newest friend in Asia? As President Barack Obama gets ready to visit Vietnam next week, he's grappling with the decision on whether to lift a lethal arms embargo that's been in place since the mid-80s. It's one of the last remnants of the US-Vietnam War and a big barrier to closer ties.
Washington says its decision hinges on Hanoi's human rights record. And as Reuters' Martin Petty reports, that's still a sticking point.>> Western governments have urged Vietnam to honor its international human rights commitments and say that critics of the Communist party are being harassed or intimidated and sometimes even jailed.
And they say that there's a climate of fear prevailing which is preventing Vietnamese from speaking out and having the basic freedoms that other countries enjoy.>> Closer military ties with Vietnam fits Washington's strategy of making friends in Asia to counter the rise of China. Vietnam is also eager to access America's sophisticated defense technology as a deterrent against Beijing.
It also has other reasons for wanting the weapons ban scrapped.>> There's also the issue of image. Vietnam wants to be seen as a country that's fully integrated into the international community and a big player in global trade. And having sanctions restricting how far it can go is not what it wants right now.
>> The issue is still being hotly debated in Washington. Some lawmakers are worried that if the embargo is lifted they'll lose a key bargaining chip in pressuring Vietnam to respect people's freedoms. But some analysts say that the US and Vietnam are drawing ever closer and differences in human rights can't stand in the way forever as Beijing's presence grows larger in the South China Sea.