HANOI, Vietnam - Vietnam's new president said Thursday he will push for
closer relations with the United States and China, signaling he is ready to play a more active role in a position that has
largely been ceremonial.
"With President Bush as well as President Hu Jintao, we will discuss (measures) to strengthen bilateral relations and make the relations increasingly closer for mutual
development," President Nguyen Minh Triet told reporters.
Legislators on Tuesday elected Triet, 63, the Communist Party chief for
the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City, as the new president. He is known as an economic reformer and has a reputation
for fighting corruption.
Triet said his first challenge would come in November when Vietnam hosts
the 21-member Asia Pacific Cooperation summit in Hanoi. Bush and Hu are expected to attend.
He said once Vietnam enters the World Trade Organization, expected later this year, the country would be forced to work harder to compete internationally.
"Vietnam has a desire to integrate into the world economy. Joining the WTO
therefore is very essential and we, at the same time, understand that it will be a very major challenge," Triet said.
Relations between Vietnam and the United States have steadily improved since
the normalization of ties between the former foes in 1995, with two-way trade reaching nearly $8 billion last year.
In May, the two countries signed a trade agreement, overcoming the last
major step in Vietnam's bid to join the WTO. A vote in the U.S. Congress is still needed for the pact to take effect.
Triet said he plans to make fighting rampant graft one of his top priorities,
and he also wants to bring some of his experience from working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam's economic engine, to the capital.
"We are determined to fight to get rid of corruption ... If the (country's)
management is well done, those who wish to become corrupt cannot," he said.
Vietnam this week also appointed a new prime minister, two new deputy premiers,
a new parliament head and seven new ministers in a choreographed reshuffle to bring in younger blood.
Only one party is allowed to exist in Vietnam, and the government
is run by a collective style of leadership. The prime minister is in charge of overseeing the day-to-day workings, while the
president typically holds a more ceremonial position. The country's most powerful leader is the head of the Communist Party.
History From The Vietnam War
My Lai has been in the news a few times this year.
Yet, another Vietnamese massacre goes mostly unknown.
Why do you think the American News Media never really carried this story?
sister recently met a Vietnam Vet ...