Once divided by conflict, the United States and Vietnam have made great strides in strengthening bilateral relations. The effort includes increased cooperation in many areas, including trade liberalization, religious freedom and regional cooperation, as well as provision of U.S. humanitarian aid and assistance to achieve legal and economic reforms.
The U.S. also is working with Vietnam on health and environmental issues, including aid for Vietnamese citizens with disabilities, regardless of cause.
As the fighting raged in the 1960s and early 1970s, American forces used millions of gallons of chemicals to kill trees and other jungle cover used by enemy troops to hide their movements. A heavily used defoliant was Agent Orange, a compound that included dioxin, a chemical that may have other adverse health and environmental consequences. Since 2001, the U.S. and Vietnam have cooperated closely to address the health and environmental concerns of the Vietnamese related to dioxin contamination, and the two countries continue to expand these efforts.
"Agent Orange has long been a sensitive issue for both countries and we have differed over the lasting impact of the defoliant in Vietnam," said Scot Marciel, the U.S. government’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. "However, in recent years we have move beyond finger pointing and engaged in practical, constructive cooperation."
Much of the work focuses on Agent Orange "hot spots," areas such as the former U.S. airbase in Da Nang where the chemical was stored. The U.S. military has provided historical information on Agent Orange operations during the conflict. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is funding a two million dollar project to help improve laboratory analysis of dioxin and site evaluation at the former airbase. Also an advisory committee of U.S. and Vietnamese officials and independent experts is working to recommend plans for joint health and environmental activities.
"We will continue to pursue constructive ways to work with the government of Vietnam and other donors to address concerns related to Agent Orange and dioxin," Mr. Marciel says.