- The Washington Times - Friday, November 17, 2000

HANOI The government of Vietnam has denied a visa to a Vietnamese-American journalist attempting to cover President Clinton's trip here for Radio Free Asia.

Khanh Van Nguyen, senior editor of the RFA's Vietnamese-language service, returned to the United States yesterday from Brunei, where he had been traveling with the White House press corps.

Over the protests of the Clinton administration, Hanoi has regularly jammed programming from the station, which broadcasts two hours of political, economic and cultural news to Vietnam daily. RFA is a congressionally chartered, privately incorporated company that broadcasts to Vietnam, China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and North Korea.

The station, which has been offering Vietnamese-language programming for about four years, has angered Hanoi's communist leaders by broadcasting interviews with political dissidents based inside Vietnam.

"Obviously, we are not very happy about this," White House spokesman P.J. Crowley said. "We pushed hard to get this reversed, but the Vietnamese said no."

U.S. officials called in Vietnam's ambassador in Washington last week to protest the exclusion of the RFA reporter, and U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson raised the issue with authorities in Hanoi as well, Mr. Crowley said.

Mr. Nguyen was the only member of the traveling press corps denied an entry visa for the three-day visit, the first by an American president since 1969.

"This is one of the reasons President Clinton is going to Vietnam," Mr. Crowley said. "He wants to press the point that if Vietnam wants to open up to the rest of the world, it has to play its part responsibly."

He said the jamming issue might come up in the talks Mr. Clinton plans today and tomorrow with Vietnamese leaders.

Mr. Nguyen has not been back to Vietnam since fleeing his native land in April 1975. The teacher and reporter left the country a day before Saigon fell to advancing North Vietnamese troops.

"Mostly, I feel very sad," Mr. Nguyen said in an interview in Brunei, where he had been covering the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and hoping to continue on to Vietnam.

"I want to go back to the country where I was born and raised, and to see parts of it I was never permitted to see while the war was going on," he said.

He said he learned he would not be accompanying the president Wednesday, when his passport was returned to him by U.S. officials. He added that the purpose of his trip was strictly professional, to cover Mr. Clinton's visit for his station.

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