- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 15, 2003

RICHMOND The State Department is assuring Vietnamese officials that it opposes a Virginia bill calling for the display of the flag of long-defeated South Vietnam, but the bill's sponsor says his state doesn't kowtow to that federal department.
"It's disconcerting to say the least," said Delegate Robert D. Hull, Falls Church Democrat. "You think the State Department is working for you, and now you find out they are working for someone else."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell this week sent a letter to Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien and the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi saying his agency had communicated publicly and privately with key members of the Virginia legislature its displeasure with the measure.
However, the State Department did not tell Vietnamese officials that Virginia lawmakers would not debate the measure, said Brenda Greenberg, a spokeswoman for the State Department.
The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Mr. Hull's bill would require all state functions including those at schools where flags of foreign nations are displayed to fly the flag of defeated South Vietnam instead of the flag of communist Vietnam.
"I am not stopping. I just now signed a letter to [the Senate Rules Committee chairman] asking that I at least be given the chance to explain my bill, as legislative courtesy, even if the outcome is known in advance," Mr. Hull said.
The United States recognizes only one Vietnamese flag, that of communist Vietnam.
Mr. Hull said he has not been contacted by Mr. Powell.
"Certainly, I would remember that call," he said, noting that Mr. Powell, a highly decorated combat veteran of the Vietnam War, lives in Virginia.
The only communication he has received from the State Department was a Feb. 5 letter from Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage. The letter expresses the department's "deep concerns" about the legislation and asks the legislature to "not act favorably" on the bill.
The House passed the bill last month 68-27. The day it passed Jan. 31 marked the 35th anniversary of the Tet Offensive, begun by communist guerrillas against U.S. and South Vietnamese troops in 1968. The attack shocked Washington in its ferocity and was one of the turning points of the war.
The bill is now before the Senate Rules Committee, which is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon. The committee's chairman, state Sen. Malfourd W. Trumbo, Fincastle Republican, could decide to not give the bill a hearing. Mr. Hull, however, hopes he will get a chance to defend his legislation as a matter of "legislative courtesy."
"I have many constituents who support this bill, and I feel that I have an obligation to follow through on this bill for them," Mr. Hull said in a letter to Mr. Trumbo yesterday.
Mr. Trumbo was not available for comment yesterday.
The latest census figures show that about 34,000 people of Vietnamese descent live in Virginia. Most live in Northern Virginia, and most of them come from what was once South Vietnam, Mr. Hull said.
The flag of South Vietnam had a gold background with three red stripes through the middle, representing the country's three regions.
Mr. Hull said "99.999 percent of those people came from communities that were in South Vietnam, [and] 1,309 Virginians died defending that flag. … Now it causes them a great deal of pain to see the communist flag at events when it is not their heritage."

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