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Asia Minute: Vietnam: War, Peace, and Economic Growth

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

As you’ve been hearing on NPR this today, the annual APEC leaders’ meeting is now underway in Vietnam. APEC stands for “Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation,” and the gathering is familiar to residents of Honolulu—which hosted the event in 2011. But this year, it’s a new experience for a very old city. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

In the minds of some Americans of a certain age, Da Nang may forever be linked to war.

It was a major base for the U.S. military in the 1960’s and early 70’s – used by the Marine Corps, the Army, and the Air Force.

The air base was used to store the chemical defoliant Agent Orange.

Today Da Nang is one of the country’s most important ports, and the third largest city in Vietnam—after Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

It’s a deep water port, which means it can handle the latest versions of container ships carrying goods to and from other commercial destinations.

There’s a new international airport that opened in May, and the government is likely to highlight that growth in infrastructure to stress the entire country’s economic growth.

Vietnam’s economy is set to grow by about 7 percent this year—one of the strongest expansions in the region.

It’s also got a 32 billion dollar annual trade surplus with the United States—something President Trump is likely to mention at some point during his visit. It’s the sixth-largest trade deficit the U.S. has with any country.

And while the economy has grown, political freedoms have not.

The communist party runs the country, other political parties are banned—and Human Rights Watch says “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire in all areas.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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