"After communist North Vietnam's victory over U.S.-backed South Vietnam in 1975, U.S.-Vietnam relations remained essentially frozen for over 15 years. Since then, bilateral ties have expanded remarkably, to the point where the relationship in many ways has been virtually normalized. Congress has played a significant role in this process. Each step in improving bilateral ties has brought controversy, albeit at diminishing levels. U.S. opponents in Congress and elsewhere have argued that Vietnam maintains a poor record on human and religious rights, particularly in the Central Highlands region. Opposition has also come from groups arguing that Vietnam has not done enough to account for U.S. Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIAs) from the Vietnam War, though this argument has diminished markedly in recent years. Forces favoring normalization have included those reflecting a strong U.S. business interest in Vietnam's reforming economy and American strategic interests in integrating Vietnam more fully into East Asia and in expanding cooperation with a country that has an ambivalent relationship with China. […] Vietnam is one of the largest recipients of U.S. assistance in East Asia; U.S. aid in FY2005 surpassed $50 million. By far the largest component of the U.S. bilateral aid program is health-related assistance, particularly spending on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. The United States also has budgeted over $7 million to help Vietnam battle outbreaks of the H5N1 avian influenza virus, which is believed to be responsible for over 40 human deaths in Vietnam."
CRS Issue Brief for Congress, IB98033