During a press conference on Monday 23 May 2016, President Obama announced that the United States’ arms embargo against Vietnam is lifted with immediate effect. This is a historic step that seems to put an end to the countries’ long lasting enmity. Although President Obama stressed that the decision to lift the arms embargo has nothing to do with China, it is generally assumed that it is in fact influenced by the countries’ shared concerns about China‘s growing influence in the region.
President Obama emphasized that the decision to lift the arms embargo does not entail a carte blanche for weapons sales to Vietnam and that the United States would review future arms sales to “examine what’s appropriate and what’s not,” as it does with any country. In that context, the Directorate of Defence Trade Controls of the US Department of State (“DDTC”) has issued an announcement that, in accordance with the Arms Export Control Act, the DDTC will review on case-by-case basis applications for licenses to export or temporarily import defense articles and defense services to or from Vietnam under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR“). DDTC will soon publish a rule in the Federal Register to implement a conforming change to ITAR §126.1.
The announcement of the DDTC can be found here.