John Kerry openly critical of the decisions to go to war half a century ago

US Secretary of State John Kerry was in Hanoi marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between US and Vietnam. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has said the Vietnam war was the result of a “most profound failure of diplomatic insight and political vision” as he marked the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries. Kerry on Friday extolled the virtues of reconciling with former enemies at the end of a five-nation tour of the Middle East and south-east Asia that has been dogged by domestic US debate over the Iran nuclear deal.

He lamented that discussions have often focused on the alleged necessity of conflict. “Standing here today, I’m reminded of conversations I’ve had recently with people who talk almost casually about the prospect of war with one country or another. And I’m tempted to say: ‘You don’t have the first idea of what you’re talking about’,” Kerry told an audience of civic and business leaders in a speech at a Hanoi hotel. “For sure, there are times when one may have no choice but to go to war, but it is never something to rush to or accept without exploring every other available option,” he said. “The war that took place here half a century ago divided each of our countries and stemmed from the most profound failure of diplomatic insight and political vision.” The Vietnam war veteran did not mention Iran or the nuclear deal but he made clear that the American-Vietnamese experience of the past 60 years could serve as a model for others. “Vietnam and our shared journey from conflict to friendship crosses my mind frequently as I grapple with complex challenges we face today,” he said.