A little more than two generations ago, the United States and Vietnam were at war. During the 1960s and early 1970s, American forces used millions of gallons of chemicals to destroy 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 we’ve since learned causes adverse health and environmental consequences.
Since the war ended, the United States and Vietnam have made great strides in setting aside their acrimony, finally establishing diplomatic relations in 1995. The two countries now share strong trade and economic relations. They cooperate in the fields of science and technology, education, the environment and health, defense and security, and to resolve war legacy issues.
Cooperation on environmental remediation, or clean-up of the areas that were most heavily contaminated with Agent Orange, was high on the list. At the request of the Government of Vietnam, the U.S. Government, working through the U.S. Agency for International Development or USAID, agreed 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 on the list was the Biên Hòa Airbase area, the primary site for the storage and handling of Agent Orange during the U.S.-Vietnam War and the largest remaining dioxin hotspot in Vietnam.
USAID estimates overall remediation efforts will be completed over a ten-year period. In late November of this year, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien announced that USAID will contribute another $20 million dollars to clean up the Biên Hòa Airbase area, bringing the total U.S. contribution to over $110 million dollars.
“In the past, we were opponents on the battlefield. But today, our security relationship is all about cooperation,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Since then, we’ve built a friendship on common interests, mutual respect, and bold resolve to overcome the past and look toward the future.”
The United States is committed to working with the Government of Vietnam to resolve war legacies while continuing to strengthen the economic, cultural, and security ties between the two countries. USAID’s efforts to clean up dioxin at both Biên Hòa and Đà Nẵng have been critical to building mutual trust and cooperation while deepening the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership.