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HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam on Thursday criticised a U.S. State Department award to detained blogger and environmental activist Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh, often referred to by her pen name, "Mother Mushroom".

Quynh, detained in October for anti-state propaganda, was one of 13 women worldwide to receive an International Women of Courage Award. The awards were presented by First Lady Melania Trump on Wednesday.

Foreign ministry spokesman Le Hai Binh said making an award to someone being investigated for breaking Vietnam's law was "not suitable and beneficial to the development of the two countries' relationship".

Vietnam has been keen to establish ties with President Donald Trump's administration.

It stands to lose as much as any country with his decision to pull the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade agreement.

Vietnam is also in a dispute with China over the South China Sea and strengthened its alliance with the United States under President Barack Obama.

In an award citation, the State Department said Quynh, 37, "has blogged extensively on environmental and human rights issues in Vietnam, publishing principled arguments to inspire change and greater transparency".

Quynh is known by her pen name of "Me Nam" - which translates as Mother Mushroom.

Despite sweeping reforms in Vietnam's economy and increasing openness towards social change, including gay, lesbian and transgender rights, the Communist Party retains tight media censorship and zero tolerance for criticism.

(Editing by Matthew Tostevin and Clarence Fernandez)

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