Secretary of State John F. Kerry does an interview with CBS News White House correspondent Margaret Brennan in Hanoi on May 23, 2016. (David Nakamura/The Washington Post)

Sec. Kerry’s impromptu public greeting in Hanoi

On May 23, Secretary of State John Kerry greeted the public in Hanoi, Vietnam. The Post’s David Nakamura used the unscheduled time to Kerry about Obama’s announcement that the U.S. would lift an arms sales embargo to Vietnam. ( )

HANOI, Vietnam — He helped the United States fight a war in this country more than four decades ago. But Secretary of State John F. Kerry got a warm welcome Monday from Vietnamese residents during an unannounced public appearance in downtown Hanoi.

Kerry’s motorcade zoomed up to the curb at Hoan Kiem Lake, near the Ngoc Son Temple, for a walk-and-talk interview with CBS News. Police attempted to block the busy pedestrian tourist attraction, but crowds of curious onlookers began to form, with many people expecting to see President Obama, who is in town for his first presidential visit to Vietnam.

The crowd did not seem disappointed to see Kerry, who was awarded a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and Silver Star for his service as a naval officer during the war. And the secretary, after stopping for CBS producers to attach a microphone to his lapel, looked pleased to see the public. He took a few steps onto the grass to say a few words, with the help of an interpreter, as the onlookers took pictures and videos with their mobile phones. A Washington Post reporter, who happened to be in the area, also recorded the moment.

“Does anybody speak English? Nobody speaks English?” Kerry asked. The secretary put an arm around his interpreter, who said a few words in Vietnamese, and the crowd applauded.

“How is everybody? How are you doing?” Kerry continued. “We’re happy to be here with you. I’m going to do a little interview” he said, drawing more applause, “with CBS television. So watch CBS for this one.”

Secretary of State John F. Kerry walks along the Ngoc Son Temple bridge in Hanoi. (David Nakamura/The Washington Post)

The Post reporter then shouted out a question about Obama’s announcement earlier in the day that the United States would lift an arms sales embargo to Vietnam that has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975: “Mr. Secretary, do you think veterans will be upset about the lifting of the arms ban?”

“No questions, buddy, that’s not what we’re here for,” a Kerry aide responded, as the secretary turned to do an interview with CBS News White House correspondent Margaret Brennan. Some veterans, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), have expressed support for a lifting of the embargo, but others have objected to selling U.S. weapons to a communist country.

As Kerry and Brennan began to walk, the crowd surged forward to try to get close to the secretary, despite the efforts of police and U.S. State Department officials to keep them back. Some locals attempted to take selfies with the secretary in the background and others took pictures of his motorcade.

The two eventually strolled onto the ornate, red temple bridge leading over the lake, where they conducted an interview as the daylight faded. The crowds continued to wait nearby until the secretary’s motorcade departed.

In many ways, Kerry’s brief public appearance appeared to illustrate what Obama had hailed earlier in the day as “the changes that have taken place between our two countries–how just a generation ago we were adversaries and now we are friends.”

That, the president said, “should give us hope, should be a reminder of the ability for us to transform relationships.”

People take a selfie in front of Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s motorcade in Hanoi.