Obama in Hanoi

The United States and Vietnam Move Closer Together

Students wave Vietnamese national flags during a military parade as part of the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam, April 30, 2015. Kham / Reuters

Next week, U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon. Long planned (and once deferred), Obama's trip could prove to be a milestone in a two-decade path toward reconciliation. It is conceivable that Vietnam's communist regime will sign up as a de facto ally of the United States; if that happens, credit China's ambition as the proximate cause. More likely, though, Hanoi won’t yet be ready to pay the quid pro quo of strategic intimacy with Washington—for example, giving permission to set up naval logistics facilities or allow rotational deployments at Cam Ranh Bay, or promising a meaningful loosening of restrictions on popular expression and a broad charter for civil society organizations, or even both.

The Hanoi regime is under new management. In January, after several years of internal turmoil, a party congress forced two-term Prime Minister Nguyen Tan

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