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Obama hosts Vietnam Communist Party chief at White House

FILE - In this July 3, 2015 file photo, Vietnamese Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong gestures during a meeting with the Western press in Hanoi, Vietnam. Trong doesn't hold an official government post, but it's not surprising that he'll meet with U.S. President Barack Obama on his visit to the United States. Trong called his trip on Tuesday, July 7, 2015 "a historic visit." He said he expects Obama to make his first visit to Vietnam later this year, though the White House has not confirmed the trip. (AP Photo/Tran Van Minh, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Tuesday the United States and Vietnam are deepening cooperation on health, climate and other issues, despite differences over “political philosophy.”

Obama spoke in the Oval Office following a meeting with the head of Vietnam’s Communist Party. Nguyen Phu Trong is the de facto leader of Vietnam despite holding no official government post.

The president said he and Trong had candid discussions on issues of human rights and religious freedom. Obama said he is confident the two countries can continue to improve their relationship and noted Trong’s invitation for him to visit Vietnam.

Following the White House meeting, Vice President Joe Biden hosted Trong for a lunch at the State Department.

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