THROUGHOUT HISTORY OF VIETNAM (US VS VIETNAM)
Vietnam, a one-party communist state, has one of south-east Asia's fastest-growing economies and has set its sights on becoming a developed nation by 2020.
It became a unified country in 1976 after the armed forces of the communist north had seized the south of the country in the previous year.
This followed three decades of bitter independence wars, which the communists fought first against the colonial power France, then against US-backed South Vietnam. In its latter stages, this conflict held the attention of the world.
VIETNAM VS USThe US had entered hostilities to stem the "domino effect" of successive nations falling to communism.
The jungle war produced heavy casualties on both sides, atrocities against civilians, and the indiscriminate destruction and contamination of much of the landscape.
A visit to Vietnam by US President Bill Clinton in November 2000 was presented as the culmination of American efforts to normalise relations with the former enemy.
Vietnam struggled to find its feet after unification and it tried at first to organise the agriculture-based economy along strict collectivist lines.
But elements of market forces and private enterprise were introduced from the late 1980s and a stock exchange opened in 2000.
Foreign investment has grown and the US is Vietnam's main trading partner. In the cities, the consumer market is fuelled by the appetite of a young, middle class for electronic and luxury goods. After 12 years of negotiations the country joined the World Trade Organization in January 2007.
But the disparity in wealth between urban and rural Vietnam is wide and some Communist Party leaders worry that too much economic liberalisation will weaken their power base and introduce "decadent" ideas into Vietnamese society.
Vietnam has been accused of suppressing political dissent and religious freedom. Rights groups have singled out Hanoi's treatment of ethnic minority hill tribe people, collectively known as Montagnards.