U.S. President Barack Obama announced on Monday that Washington will fully lift an embargo on sales of lethal arms to Vietnam, underlining warming relations between the former foes amid rising tensions with Beijing over the South China Sea.
At a lavish state luncheon in Hanoi, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang toasted Obama's first visit to the country as the arrival of a warm spring after a cold winter.
Obama, the third U.S. president to visit Vietnam since ties were restored in 1995, has made a strategic 'rebalance' towards Asia-Pacific a centrepiece of his foreign policy.
Vietnam, where the United States was at war until 1975, has become a critical part of that strategy amid concerns about China's growing military might and its sovereignty claims in the South China Sea.
The decision to lift the arms trade ban, which followed intense debate within the Obama administration, suggested that U.S. concerns about China's assertiveness outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and that Washington would lose leverage for reforms.