By Bennett Murray
United States Secretary of State John Kerry began his final state visit as the top American diplomat by meeting with Vietnam’s prime minister in Hanoi Friday morning.
The trip was expected to be mostly symbolic by local media as the administration of President Barack Obama enters its final week.
“During Kerry’s final visit to Vietnam, analysts expect no breakthroughs,” reported the local VN Express news site.
Kerry, who fought in the Vietnam War as a navy patrol commander in the late 1960s, has visited the country four times as Secretary of State.
He accompanied Obama on his trip in May 2016 when the president announced the end to its arms embargo against Hanoi.
The trip coincides with heated rhetoric toward China from President-elect Donald Trump and his Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson over Beijing’s island building in the South China Sea, where Beijing and Hanoi have competing maritime claims.
On Saturday, Kerry is expected to visit Ca Mau province in southern Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where the soldier-turned-diplomat saw the bulk of his fighting during his combat tour in 1968 and 1969.
He will then fly to France before traveling to the United Kingdom and Switzerland.