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A Toxic Legacy In Vietnam

The United States and Vietnam continue to expand their cooperation to address Agent Orange and its toxic contaminant dioxin, with a joint advisory committee meeting last week in Hanoi.

The working session, the third in as many years, brought American and Vietnamese scientists together to review ongoing U.S.-Vietnam Agent Orange efforts as well as to discuss additional environmental remediation and health projects to be recommended to policy makers. Plans were announced for use of three million dollars provided by the U.S. Congress for programs to deal with Agent Orange, a defoliant used in some parts of the country during the Vietnam war.

Agent Orange has long been a sensitive issue for both nations. In recent years, however, discussion has moved beyond the finger pointing of old adversaries toward the constructive cooperation of international partners. While more scientific research must be done to determine the lasting impact of Agent Orange on Vietnam, the U.S. acknowledges Vietnam's concerns and is acting to help address them. The science-based, joint-government approach of the recent meetings illustrates how Vietnam and the United States are working closely together to move forward on this issue.

"Everyone today understands the importance of this issue to U.S.-Vietnam relations and to the Vietnamese people," said U.S. Ambassador Michael Michalak.

Overall, the U.S. has spent more than forty million dollars to help Vietnamese with disabilities, regardless of cause. Some of the money allocated by Congress for Agent Orange activities will help people with disabilities in Danang, the site of a former U.S. airbase where the defoliant was stored and prepared for aerial use. The U.S. is also looking into cleanup activities of so-called dioxin "hot spots" and aims to join with other donors to best coordinate efforts.

Looking forward, the U.S. will continue to focus on supporting Vietnamese efforts to secure a safe environment and assisting Vietnamese living with disabilities, regardless of their cause.