- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 9, 2003


Symbolism and substance blend when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld meets tomorrow with his Vietnamese counterpart, the first defense minister from the communist country to visit the Pentagon since the war’s end in 1975.

About 30 years after America’s pullout from Vietnam, Defense Minister Pham Van Tra is expected to talk with Mr. Rumsfeld and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about lingering problems from the war and how the countries can become allies in the fight against terrorism.

“It’s symbolic of a new stage in Vietnamese-American relations,” which have been broadening slowly over the years, said Charles Morrison, president of the East-West Center, a Honolulu-based research organization that focuses on Asian and Pacific affairs.

The United States and communist Vietnam had no formal relations and limited contacts in the two decades after the last American combat troops left South Vietnam in 1973.

The elder President George Bush initiated cooperation in such areas as accounting for Americans missing in action. President Bill Clinton lifted the trade embargo in 1994 and the next year established diplomatic relations.

Over time, Vietnam and the United States have developed trade ties and discussed issues such as U.S. misgivings about Vietnam’s human rights record.

Recent developments in the relationship include last month’s aviation agreement to begin direct flights between the two countries.

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