Bush and Vietnam's Dung praise improving relationship
President George W Bush said US ties with Vietnam have been growing ever closer as he welcomed the nation's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to the White House on Tuesday. ( dpa )
"Our relationship with Vietnam is getting closer, in a spirit of respect," Bush said in brief remarks, praising the country for making "noteworthy" steps towards religious freedom.
Dung, whose visit comes once year after Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet made a historic trip to the United States, said the two sides agreed to closer cooperation measures on the economy, education, and research to help Vietnam deal with the consequences of global warming.
The two countries also launched negotiations toward a bilateral investment treaty to grant companies greater protections.
"We took note with great pleasure of rapid development in the Vietnam-US relationship toward a friendly and constructive partnership," Dung said in translated remarks.
Relations between the two countries have improved significantly since former president Bill Clinton controversially normalized relations in 1995 and visited the South-East Asian nation five years later.
Bush travelled to Hanoi in 2006, while the following year, Vietnam President Triet became the country's first leader to visit the White House since the end of the war.
A small group of anti-communist protestors gathered outside the White House Tuesday to protest Dung's visit.
Bush did not criticize Vietnam over human rights in his remarks, though the State Department noted in a statement that "serious concerns remain" over the country's record.
"The United States continues to urge Vietnam to allow greater political freedoms and to make additional improvements on religious freedom," the statement said.