- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2003

Vietnam’s deputy prime minister said he aspired in Washington talks this week to build on a relationship with the United States that is “not yet very stable” and to get Americans to change the way they think about his country.

Vu Khoan, the most senior Vietnamese official to visit the United States since the Vietnam War, signed a major aviation agreement on Thursday and discussed security and other concerns yesterday with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

“We have come a very long way from two adversaries to two very friendly nations,” Mr. Khoan said in an interview Thursday at the Vietnamese Embassy.

“We have maintained political contacts and trade; we are expanding that cooperation to social areas and even military contacts. But relations are not yet very stable. Therefore my purpose was to come to meet with American leaders to discuss a framework for more stable relations.”

Mr. Khoan said he hoped to secure greater U.S. cooperation against supporters of the former South Vietnamese government who have tried to undermine the Hanoi government, and against 21 American cities and one state that have given legislative recognition to the former South Vietnamese flag.

Vietnamese expatriates with ties to the United States were involved in bomb attacks on Vietnamese embassies in Thailand and the Philippines in 2000 and an attempt to drop bombs on Vietnam from an airplane hijacked in Thailand in 2001, Mr. Khoan said.

“We believe the U.S. should cooperate against this terrorism. … We have asked the United States to take steps to help prevent this and have received a commitment to work with us,” he said.

The state of Louisiana and the city of Boston are among the jurisdictions — most with significant Vietnamese-American populations — that have recognized the former South Vietnamese flag with its three horizontal red stripes on a field of yellow.

“We feel that is very strange,” Mr. Khoan said. “While America has relations with one country, they recognize the flag of another regime that is not in existence anymore. Imagine how you would feel if another country did not recognize the Stars and Stripes but only the Confederate flag.”

Voicing concern about terrorist activity in Indonesia and the southern Philippines, Mr. Khoan said Vietnam and the United States “have been cooperating in counterterrorism. We have shared information and experience in fighting terrorism.”

Improved relations in the security field are marked by a groundbreaking visit to Washington by the Vietnamese defense minister and a recent port call to Vietnam by an American warship, he noted.

“We have no manifestation of terrorism [in Vietnam], but we are aware that transnational crime is a global problem. We need to promote global cooperation against transnational crimes. We are willing to cooperate with the United States.”

Regarding U.S. attitudes toward Vietnam, Mr. Khoan said: “The American people … should not look at Vietnam through glasses of the past but rather look to the future. That future is a future of cooperation for peace, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia.

“I wish to tell the American people they should not look at Vietnam as a war or as a very poor country but as one that is striving for stability and prosperity. We wish to develop relations on the basis of equality and mutual benefits.”

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