Vietnam President Will Return to Work Soon After Health Worry

(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam’s most powerful leader Nguyen Phu Trong is expected to return to his regular routine soon after his health was affected by a high workload and changing weather, foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told reporters on Thursday.

Hang was responding to a question about rumors that Trong suffered a stroke while visiting Kien Giang province. He holds the posts of president and Communist Party chief.

Vietnamese social media has been abuzz with rumors of Trong’s ill health since April 14, with some reporting he suffered a brain aneurysm, Carlyle Thayer, an emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, wrote in an April 23 report. The nation’s government-controlled media has remained quiet about the reports, similar to when President Tran Dai Quang was terminally ill, he added.

Vietnam President Will Return to Work Soon After Health Worry

Trong, 75, last year became Vietnam’s most influential leader since late revolutionary founder Ho Chi Minh by taking two of the country’s top three positions, a break from party tradition following the Sept. 21 death of Quang from illness. A major leadership change is not expected until the next party congress in 2021.

Vietnam’s leaders have long made policy by consensus, and supported opening the nation up to foreign investment. The nation has evolved into one of the most trade-dependent economies in the world with a dozen signed free-trade agreements.

Trong has welcomed a robust U.S. presence in Southeast Asia amid Vietnam’s territorial tensions with China, which claims more than 80 percent of the South China Sea based on a 1947 map showing vague dashes. He has also spearheaded anti-corruption campaigns that have targeted officials.

Political power in Vietnam rests with four individual positions -- party chief, prime minister, president and head of the National Assembly.

After Trong was elected president in October, he appeared concerned about taking on the additional role, citing his “worrisome” old age and weakening health in an acceptance speech to the National Assembly.

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