From November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975, the United States and Vietnam were at war. During the 1960s and early 1970s, American forces used millions of liters of chemicals to destroy jungle cover used by enemy troops to hide their movements. One of the more commonly used defoliants was Agent Orange, a compound that included dioxin, a chemical that we’ve since learned causes adverse health and environmental consequences.
Over the next 20 years, the acrimony between the two nations diminished, and in 1995, the United States and Vietnam established diplomatic relations. Today, in addition to cooperation in numerous fields across the board, the two countries work together to resolve some of the issues stemming from the war.
One of these is environmental clean-up of the areas that were most heavily contaminated with Agent Orange. At the request of the Government of Vietnam, the U.S. Government, working through USAID in partnership with the Department of Defense, collaborated with Vietnam to complete cleanup of the Đà Nẵng Airport, which had high dioxin concentrations in the soil left over from the war. That project was finished in 2018.
Next, the U.S. Government and Government of Vietnam continued cooperation on dioxin remediation at the Biên Hòa airbase area, the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam. An assessment of dioxin contamination there, completed in 2016, found that nearly 500,000 cubic meters of soil needed remediation.
The project, which was launched in April 2019, is expected to take ten years and cost around $450 million to complete.
In early March this year, USAID Administrator Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper, and Vietnam’s Vice Minister of the Ministry of National Defense, Senior Lieutenant General Hoang Xuan Chien, announced a new contract worth $73 million over five years to treat and clean soil at Biên Hòa airbase. Under the contract, Nelson Environmental Remediation USA, an American company, will design and build a treatment facility to decontaminate soil and sediment on and around the Biên Hòa airbase.
The United States is committed to working with the Government of Vietnam to address the legacies of war while continuing to strengthen the economic, cultural, and security ties between the two countries. USAID’s efforts to clean up dioxin at Biên Hòa and Đà Nẵng have been critical to building mutual trust and cooperation while deepening the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.