Secretary of State Warren Christopher delivered a strongly worded speech on freedom and democracy to a group of Vietnamese students Sunday, telling them that their country “should move beyond just opening its doors.”
In a clear statement of American values aimed not just at Vietnam but also the rest of Asia, Christopher praised the spread of freely elected governments around the world. He spoke repeatedly of the importance of free markets and the rule of law.
“The key to success in this rapidly changing world is the freedom to own, to buy and to sell, the freedom to participate in the decisions that affect our lives,” he said.
It was the furthest any U.S. official has gone in suggesting that the United States would like to bring political change to Vietnam. Over the past two days, Vietnamese leaders have suggested that Washington and Hanoi focus mostly on economic issues, and they have warned the United States not to intrude on Vietnamese sovereignty.
Christopher spoke at Hanoi’s International Relations Center as he finished a two-day visit designed to establish formal diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam.