Vietnam News

U.S. ambassador tours Orange County Vietnamese communities

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The United States ambassador to Vietnam and local elected leaders on Monday stressed the importance of building economic relations between the U.S. and Vietnam as they toured Little Saigon and met with residents.

“Vietnam’s success is America’s success,” said Marc Knapper, who has been the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since 2022, “just as America’s success is Vietnam’s success.”

The tour in Orange County comes weeks after the two countries strengthened their partnership, promising new investment and closer relations. Orange County is home to the largest Vietnamese American community in the U.S., and Knapper said there is an opportunity for its residents to build cooperation and understanding between the two nations, especially in high-tech industries.

Rep. Lou Correa organized the ambassador’s visit to Orange County. They made stops at religious institutions, including the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine at Christ Cathedral in Garden Grove and the Bao Quang Temple in Santa Ana, and met with business leaders throughout Little Saigon.

Faith leaders greeted the delegation Monday morning at the Our Lady of La Vang Shrine, explaining the history behind the 12-foot tall Virgin Mary statue and showing them the wall with the names of 117 Catholics who were martyred for their religious beliefs in Vietnam over several hundred years.

At the Bao Quang Temple, Knapper and Correa met with a small group of monks, with Knapper speaking in Vietnamese with the Buddhist leaders. They burned incense and then got to see the temple’s private trove of Buddhist artifacts.

Loc Bach, president and chairman of the Vietnamese American Buddhist Center for Charitable Services – Bao Quang Temple, said the ambassador’s visit shows that Knapper wants to have a good, open relationship with refugees of Vietnam.

“The people who fled their country, they want to see progress is being made and their country is moving in the right direction,” Bach said. “I’m just very thankful and happy to see the congressman and the ambassador visit the temple.”

The delegation received a big welcome at the Advanced Beauty College in Garden Grove. State Sen. Janet Nguyen said there the nail industry is largely made up of Vietnamese workers.

During a short discussion at the school, Knapper said America’s relationship with Vietnam is significant.

“We don’t always see eye-to-eye with the government of Vietnam,” and there are times when the U.S. will raise concerns with religious freedom and human rights, Knapper said.

The Little Saigon community continues to have disagreements about working with the Vietnamese government. When asked how Vietnamese Americans can contribute to the relationship between the two countries, Knapper said he can’t presume to understand the feelings at play, but he knows they are complex.

Correa in September, along with Rep. Michelle Steel and others, asked President Joe Biden when he was visiting the country to address human rights issues in Vietnam and encourage the release prisoners of conscience. Correa said it’s important for the community to push political leaders on these issues.

The last stop of the day was the Asian Garden Mall in Westminster.

Correa said the private sector is making substantial investments in Vietnam already. A lesson learned from the pandemic, he said, is that the U.S. can’t rely on single nations for sourcing critical products, and that Vietnam is part of a policy of broadening supply chains.

By Michael Slaten – The Orange County Register –  October 31, 2023

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