Kerry pushes reform, maritime security in Vietnam

December 16, 2013
View photos
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rides a boat through the Mekong River Delta Sunday, Dec. 15, 2013. Along the winding muddy waters of the Mekong Delta where he once patrolled for communist insurgents on a naval gunboat, Secretary of State Kerry turned his sights Sunday on a new enemy: climate change. (AP Photo/Brian Snyder, Pool)

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Vietnam pressing the communist country on democratic and economic reforms and offering U.S. assistance to protect its maritime borders.

On his first trip to Vietnam as America's top diplomat, Kerry was in the capital of Hanoi on Monday to urge the release of political prisoners, unfettered Internet access and continued embrace of free-market economic policies as the U.S. negotiates a major trade agreement with 11 Asia-Pacific nations, including Vietnam.

And, amid tensions with China over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea, Kerry sought to assure the Vietnamese of the ongoing U.S. commitment to freedom of navigation and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Kerry came to Hanoi after visiting Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta.