- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Vietnam’s outreach

The U.S. secretary of veterans affairs joined the Vietnamese ambassador on Veterans Day to mark another landmark in the evolving relations between Washington and Hanoi, 30 years after the last American troops left Vietnam.

Anthony J. Principi, a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, stood with Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chein under a portrait of Ho Chi Minh at the ambassador’s residence at a reception for Vietnam’s defense minister, Gen. Phan Van Tra.

“This first visit by the Vietnamese defense minister to the United States is an event of historic importance in the relationship between Vietnam and the United States,” Mr. Chein said.

“The visit marks the full normalization of the bilateral relationship after three decades since the end of the war. With efforts made by both countries, the diplomatic relations and relations in areas such as trade and investment, science and technology, education and training and defense have been restored and developed.”

Gen. Tra visited Washington at the invitation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. He also met with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly.

Mr. Chein said, “The hope of the government and people of Vietnam, as repeatedly stressed by Gen. Tra at his meetings with high-ranking U.S. officials, is to establish a long-lasting and stable relationship between Vietnam and the United States [and] to make the younger generations in both countries better understand each other, not to repeat the past and to maintain peace and stability for join economic development and prosperity.”

Robertson’s medal

President Bush yesterday presented NATO Secretary-General George Robertson with the U.S. Medal of Freedom, praising him as a “passionate spokesman for freedom” and a “true friend of the United States.”

Mr. Robertson, a former British defense minister, is resigning from his post next month after four years as chief of the Western military alliance.

“With his vision and leadership, George Robertson has helped transform NATO to meet the challenges of a new century,” Mr. Bush said at the White House ceremony, where Mr. Robertson received the United States’ highest civilian award.

Mr. Bush credited Mr. Robertson with streamlining NATO, presiding over its expansion and helping to establish a new alliance relationship with Russia. He also thanked Mr. Robertson for invoking NATO’s common-defense clause to send aircraft to patrol American skies after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Israeli commerce

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon was pleased to have something other than the Palestinian conflict to talk about when he promoted a new agreement between U.S. and Israeli business authorities.

“When we talk about the relationship between Israel and the United States, it is not just the military, intelligence and strategic cooperation. It is also business,” he said at a ceremony with officials of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Israel Small and Medium Enterprises Authority.

The two agencies this month signed a “letter of intent” to help establish future cooperation between U.S. and Israeli business owners that would include the coordination of trade delegations, the exchange of technical expertise and other efforts to promote business.

“Business is one of the most fundamental elements that epitomizes the strength, scope and intimacy of the relationship,” Mr. Ayalon said.

“By having this agreement … we can really catapult our economic relationship to a much higher ground, and certainly we can explore and create these opportunities which help job creation and increase the volume of trade between our two countries for the benefit of all of us.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison @washingtontimes.com.

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