US President Barack Obama (left) and Vietnam's President Tran Dai Quang reviewing a guard of honour at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo credit/straitstimes.com

US President Barack Obama seems a man with a mission to accomplish before he leaves power in January next year: make peace with your erstwhile foes, he seems to insinuate. Obama arrived in Vietnam today for 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 today to roll back an arms embargo on Hanoi, one of the last vestiges of wartime animosity.

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Serving his last year in office, Obama has tried to mend fences with America’s old and enduring foes, and in March this year he visited Cuba, becoming only the first US sitting president to visit the island state in over 80 years. “My lifetime has spanned a time of isolation between us. I have come here to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas,” Obama was quoted as saying during the Cuba visit.