Obama urges Vietnam leader to promote freedoms

US President Barack Obama and President Truong Tan Sang (L) of Vietnam hold a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, July 25, 2013. Sang is only the second Vietnamese president invited to the White House since the normalization of ties between the former war foes, which have increasingly found common cause amid unease over China's rise. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia: President Barack Obama on Thursday urged his Vietnamese counterpart Truong Tan Sang to strengthen freedom of speech and of religion in his country.

The US leader spoke after what he described as "very candid" talks at the White House with the South East Asian leader.

"The United States continues to believe that all of us have to respect issues like freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly," Obama told reporters at the Oval Office with Sang at his side.

"We had a very candid conversation about both the progress that Vietnam is making and the challenges that remain," he said.

Sang is only the second Vietnamese president to visit the White House since the former war adversaries normalized relations in 1995.

US lawmakers have urged Obama to push Sang on human rights.

Several hundred protesters, mostly Vietnamese Americans, waved flags of former South Vietnam and chanted slogans from Lafayette Park, sometimes reaching a volume audible inside the White House.





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