Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang died on Friday aged 61 at a military hospital in the capital Hanoi following a period of illness, state media said.
Coverage on state media was sombre Friday, with a Vietnam Television anchor dressed in all black as she announced the news of the leader's death, first reported by the official news agency.
Despite holding one of the top 4 positions of the country and officially being the head of state, Quang's role as President was considered to be largely ceremonial, greeting visiting leaders and hosting diplomatic events in a bid to boost Vietnam's profile on the world stage. "However, there are no medicines in the world that can cure the illness completely, instead it only could prevent and push it back for some time".
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Quang, one of the country's top three leaders but with mostly ceremonial duties, hosted President Donald Trump during his first state visit to the communist country previous year.
U.S Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink praised Quang for his contributions to promote relations between the two former foes.
Quang became Vietnam's president following the 2016 Community Party Congress. More than 40 people were jailed this year and some 100 have been behind bars as of April 2018, according to Amnesty International.
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"More than anyone else, he's responsible for the ministry of public security's expansion into all aspects of daily Vietnamese life, bringing all the rights abuses, corruption and extortion that come with increased police presence", he added.
Prior to serving as president, Quang had been the head of the Ministry of Public Safety, the country's de facto security and intelligence service, which has been singled out by global critics of Vietnam's human rights record.
The National Assembly is scheduled to convene a session next month and expected to elect a new president.
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There was no immediate announcement about when his funeral will take place, though the government is certain to host a state service for him.