Obama arrives in Vietnam, seeks to turn old foe into new partner

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Obama arrives in Vietnam, seeks to turn old foe into new partner

U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Vietnam late Sunday ahead of a three-day trip aimed at sealing the transformation of an old enemy into a new partner to help counter China's growing assertiveness in the region.

Four decades after a war with Vietnam that deeply divided opinion in America, Obama aims to boost defense and economic ties with the country's communist rulers while also prodding them on human rights, aides say.

His visit has been preceded by a debate in Washington over whether Obama should use the three-day visit starting Monday to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.

Click through images of President Obama's visit:

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Obama arrives in Vietnam, seeks to turn old foe into new partner
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) attends a bilateral meeting with Vietnam's General Secretary of the Communist Party and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong at Central Office of the Communist Party of Vietnam in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and his Vietnamese counterpart Tran Dai Quang review the guard of honour during welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) attends a press conference with Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang at the Presidential Palace Compound in Hanoi, Vietnam May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama walks to his limousine as he arrives at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama receives flowers as he arrives at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Barack Obama arrives at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks Airforce One as he lands at Hanoi 's Noi Bai International Airport May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool
U.S. President Barack Obama walks to his limousine as he arrives at Noibai International Airport in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Barack Obama disembarks Airforce One as he lands at Hanoi 's Noi Bai International Airport May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Hoang Dinh Nam/Pool
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That would anger China, which resents U.S. efforts to forge stronger military bonds with Beijing's neighbors amid rising tensions in the disputed South China Sea.

But in the hours ahead of his arrival in Hanoi, where he was greeted on a red carpet by foreign ministry officials, there was no immediate word of a final U.S. decision on the ban.

Vietnam's poor human rights record is a sticking point, but the Obama administration appears increasingly swayed toward giving Hanoi some leeway to build its deterrent against Beijing.

Obama's visit follows what the Pentagon called an "unsafe" intercept by Chinese fighter jets of a U.S. military reconnaissance plane over the South China Sea on Tuesday.

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