at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

U.S./Viet Nam Relations: How Old Enemies Became Friends


Click play to listen to this mp3. Please note sound files are not playable on mobile devices.

January 17, 12:00 p.m.
Presented by Ambassador Raymond Burghardt, Director of Seminars at the East West Center

The steady improvement in U.S. – Vietnam relations in recent years has been a remarkable development for two governments that fought each other in a long, bitter war. At a time when America’s relations with some old friends are strained, its friendly ties with this old enemy must seem surprising to many people. As two veteran Asia hands, former U.S. Ambassadors Stephen Bosworth and Morton Abramowitz commented, “Ironically, Viet Nam may be the most pro-American country in Southeast Asia.” While America’s “soft power” may be eroding elsewhere in Asia, young Vietnamese idolize Bill Gates and aspire to study at American universities.

The good relations between Washington and Hanoi can be attributed to several factors and Ambassador Burghardt will discuss them. These factors include: (1) a pragmatic approach by both countries since normalization in 1995, focusing on present and future mutual benefits rather than obsessing about the past, and, (2) more recently, the realization by both parties that we have no strategic conflict and, in fact, have important areas of strategic convergence.


Ambassador Burghardt is now the Director of East-West Seminars at the East-West Center (EWC). Concurrently with his position at the EWC, he is also the Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT). He served as the Ambassador to Viet Nam from 2001- September 2004. He was formerly the Director of the AIT in Taipei from 1999-2001. Ambassador Burghardt received a B.A. from Columbia College in 1967 and did graduate study at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. He speaks Vietnamese, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.