- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 2, 2014

A ban on U.S. lethal weapons sales to Vietnam in place since the end of the Vietnam War has ended.

Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh was informed of the U.S. policy shift during a meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Thursday.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the move was not a diplomatic shot at China, the Associated Press reported Thursday. U.S. officials said the move was in response to improvements in the nation’s human rights record.

“If we do not buy weapons from the United States, we [would] still buy from other countries. Why should China bother about that?” the prime minister recently said last week in New York when asked about possibility buying U.S. weapons in the future, AP reported.

Military Times noted Thursday that the move also comes as tensions have risen in the South China Sea. In one instance, China set up an oil rig in waters claimed by Vietnam, the paper said.

A U.S. official who spoke with Military Times on condition of anonymity echoed Ms. Psaki’s assertion that regional disputes were not a motivating factor dropping the ban.

“This is not an anti-China move. This is not something where we would feel we had to alert China to. This is really a move on the continuum of things we’ve been talking about to help countries build maritime capacity,” the official told the paper.

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