"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. Some argue that improvements in bilateral relations should be conditioned upon Hanoi improving its record on human and religious rights, particularly in the Central Highlands region. Opposition to the pace and scope of normalization also has come from groups arguing that Vietnam has not done enough to account for U.S. Prisoners of War/Missing in Action from the Vietnam War, though this argument has diminished markedly in recent years. Interests 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. […] In recent years, clashes over Vietnam's human rights record and trade issues have arisen. Simultaneously, however, the two countries have expanded political and security ties in the past three years, symbolized by the Vietnamese Prime Minister's visit to the United States in June 2005, the first such trip by a Vietnamese head of state. President Bush spoke of his desire to move bilateral relations to 'a higher plane,' backed Vietnam's bid to enter the WTO [World Trade Organization], and the two countries signed an international military education training (IMET) agreement. The two countries share a strategic interest in offsetting China's increased influence in Southeast Asia, though many argue there is little evidence that Hanoi seeks to balance Beijing's rising power. Vietnam is one of the largest recipients of U.S. assistance in East Asia; U.S. aid in FY2005 surpassed $50 million. This report will be updated."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33316