President Obama has lifted the arms embargo on Vietnam that dates back to the Vietnam war. In 2014 the ban was partially lifted by Secretary of State John Kerry, allowing only maritime security-related defense equipment to be exported to Vietnam but continuing to ban imports.
Kerry said, back in 2014, that the partial lifting of the ban was because of China’s actions in the South China Sea. During his visit to Vietnam this week the President said the decision to fully lift the ban has nothing whatsoever to do with China.
The US Code of Federal Regulations Title 22 126.1 (l) currently states (emphasis added):
(l) Vietnam. It is the policy of the United States to deny licenses or other approvals for exports or imports of defense articles and defense services destined for or originating in Vietnam, except that a license or other approval may be issued, on a case-by-case basis, for:(1) Non-lethal defense articles and defense services, and(2) Non-lethal, safety-of-use defense articles (e.g., cartridge actuated devices, propellant actuated devices and technical manuals for military aircraft for purposes of enhancing the safety of the aircraft crew) for lethal end-items.For non-lethal defense end-items, no distinction will be made between Vietnam’s existing and new inventory.
Vietnam’s defense industry have been producing an AR-15 variant, based on the Colt Commando, called the M18.
Full AR-15 rifles will still be banned by the 1989 Bush Administration’s ban on non-sporting firearm imports, but Obama’s lifting of the embargo will hopefully allow for AR-15 parts to be imported, as well as “sporting rifles”. The lifting of the ban will also allow American manufacturers to export shotguns and .22 rifles to consumers in Vietnam.