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Two decades after the Fall of Saigon, President Bill Clinton establishes full diplomatic relations with Vietnam, citing Vietnamese cooperation in accounting for the 2,238 Americans still listed as missing in the Vietnam War.
Normalization with America’s old enemy began in early 1994, when President Clinton announced the lifting of the 19-year-old trade embargo against Vietnam. Despite the lifting of the embargo, high tariffs remained on Vietnamese exports pending the country’s qualification as a “most favored nation,” a U.S. trade status designation that Vietnam might earn after broadening its program of free-market reforms. In July 1995, Clinton established diplomatic relations. In making the decision, Clinton was advised by Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, an ex-navy pilot who had spent five years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi during the Vietnam War. Brushing aside criticism of Clinton’s decision by some Republicans, McCain asserted that it was time for America to normalize relations with Vietnam.
In May 1996, Clinton terminated the combat zone designation for Vietnam and nominated Florida Representative Douglas “Pete” Peterson to become the first ambassador to Vietnam since Graham Martin was airlifted out of the country by helicopter in late April 1975. Peterson himself had served as a U.S. Air Force captain during the Vietnam War and was held as a prisoner of war for six and a half years after his bomber was shot down near Hanoi in 1966. Confirmed by Congress in 1997, Ambassador Peterson presented his credentials to communist authorities in Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, in May 1997. In November 2000, Peterson greeted Clinton in Hanoi in the first presidential visit to Vietnam since Richard Nixon’s 1969 trip to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
READ MORE: Vietnam War Timeline
U.S. Department of State
More information about Vietnam is available on the Vietnam Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.
The United States established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1950, following its limited independence within the French Union France continued to oversee Vietnam's defense and foreign policy. In 1954, Vietnamese nationalists fighting for full independence defeated France, and the now-divided Vietnam entered into two decades of civil war. The United States did not recognize North Vietnam's government, maintaining the U.S. Embassy in South Vietnam, supporting the South against the North, and entering the war on the South's side. In 1975, the United States closed its Embassy and evacuated all Embassy personnel just prior to South Vietnam's surrender to North Vietnamese forces.
Vietnam was reunified under communist rule. In 1978, it invaded Cambodia following border clashes. U.S. policy held that normalization of its relations with Vietnam be based on withdrawal of the Vietnamese military from Cambodia as part of a comprehensive political settlement and on continued cooperation on prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) issues and other humanitarian concerns. In 1995, the United States announced the formal normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam. In 2015 the United States and Vietnam marked the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations, and in May 2016, President Obama visited Vietnam to celebrate the Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries.
The United States supports a strong, independent, and prosperous Vietnam that respects human rights and the rule of law. U.S. relations with Vietnam have become increasingly cooperative and comprehensive, guided by the 2013 U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership, an overarching framework for advancing the bilateral relationship, the 2015 bilateral Joint Vision Statement, and the Joint Statement issued during President Obama&rsquos visit to Vietnam in May 2016. This partnership advances key initiatives to bolster U.S.-Vietnam relations and underscores the enduring U.S. commitment to the Asia-Pacific rebalance. The partnership provides a mechanism to facilitate cooperation in areas including political and diplomatic relations, trade and economic ties, science and technology, education and training, environment and health, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, war legacy issues, defense and security, protection and promotion of human rights, people-to-people ties, and culture, sports, and tourism. The United States supports Vietnam&rsquos law enforcement professionalization, regional cross-border cooperation, and implementation of international conventions and standards. Vietnam is a partner in nonproliferation regimes, including the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and takes advantage of expertise, equipment, and training available under the Export Control and Related Border Security program. In 2016, the United States and Vietnam signed a letter of agreement to increase cooperation on law enforcement and the justice sector. The United States and Vietnam hold regular dialogues on labor and human rights, and the two sides are embarking on a significant initiative to bring Vietnam&rsquos laws and practices into compliance with international labor standards and allow independent trade unions to organize.
The United States considers achieving the fullest possible accounting of Americans missing and unaccounted for in Indochina to be one of its highest priorities with Vietnam. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command conducts four major investigation and recovery periods a year in Vietnam, during which specially trained U.S. military and civilian personnel investigate and excavate hundreds of cases in pursuit of the fullest possible accounting. Vietnamese-led recovery teams have become regular participants in these recovery missions since August 2011.
Vietnam remains heavily contaminated by explosive remnants of war, primarily in the form of unexploded ordnance (UXO) including extensive contamination by cluster munitions dating from the war with the United States. The United States is the largest single donor to UXO/mine action in Vietnam, and the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on continued unexploded ordnance cooperation in December 2013. U.S. efforts to address legacy issues such as UXO/demining, MIA accounting, and Agent Orange (a defoliant used by U.S. forces) provided the foundations for the U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship. The United States and Vietnam are committed to strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries as outlined in the Memorandum of Understanding on Advancing Bilateral Defense Cooperation in 2011 and the U.S.-Vietnam Joint Vision Statement on Defense Relations signed in 2015, giving priority to humanitarian cooperation, war legacy issues, maritime security, peacekeeping, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. Many of these topics are discussed in annual bilateral defense discussions. In May 2016, the United States fully lifted its ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam and continued to provide Vietnam with maritime security assistance &ndash including through the Maritime Security Initiative, the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, and Foreign Military Financing. Also in 2016, the United States and Vietnam signed a letter of intent to establish a working group for the Cooperative Humanitarian and Medical Storage Initiative, which will advance cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. The United States reaffirmed its support for Vietnam&rsquos peacekeeping efforts with an aim of assisting Vietnam&rsquos first deployment of UN peacekeeping forces by 2017.
U.S.-Vietnam people-to-people ties have flourished. Nearly 19,000 Vietnamese now study in the United States. The new Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV), which opens in Ho Chi Minh City later this year, will help bring world-class, independent education to Vietnam. Over 13,000 Vietnamese are members of the Young Southeast Asia Leaders Initiative. The United States and Vietnam signed a Peace Corps country agreement during the President&rsquos May 2016 visit.
U.S. Assistance to Vietnam
In the 1980s, Vietnam introduced market reforms, opened up the country for foreign investment, and improved the business climate. It became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Vietnam's rapid economic transformation and global integration has lifted millions out of poverty and has propelled the country to the ranks of lower-middle-income status. U.S. assistance in Vietnam focuses on consolidating gains to ensure sustainable economic development while promoting good governance and the rule of law. Assistance projects aim to deepen regulatory reforms, improve the capacity and independence of Vietnam's judicial and legislative bodies, and promote more effective public participation in the law and regulation-making processes. Starting in 2016, the U.S. will invest significant resources in assisting the Government of Vietnam bring its laws and practices into compliance with international labor standards, create the legal framework and institutions to allow the registration of independent trade unions, and train labor inspectors, law enforcement officials, and the judiciary to effectively enforce labor laws and uphold workers&rsquo rights. U.S. assistance also seeks to support Vietnam's response to climate change and other environmental challenges, including remediating Agent Orange/dioxin contamination, strengthening the country&rsquos health and education systems, and assisting vulnerable populations. The United States and Vietnam successfully concluded the first phase of dioxin remediation at Danang International Airport and has committed to partnering with Vietnam to make a significant contribution to the clean-up of dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Air Base. Both sides also pledged to take a number of practical actions to advance climate mitigation and adaptation, as well as enhance transparency and capacity building through the U.S.-Vietnam Climate Partnership, including in the Mekong River Delta. The United States has invested over $44 million since 2011 to help mitigate the impacts of climate change in Vietnam, one of most vulnerable countries in the world to its effects.
Bilateral Economic Relations
Since entry into force of the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade agreement in 2001, trade between the two countries and U.S. investment in Vietnam have grown dramatically. The United States and Vietnam have concluded a trade and investment framework agreement they also have signed textile, air transport, and maritime agreements. U.S. exports to Vietnam include agricultural products, machinery, yarn/fabric, and vehicles. U.S. imports from Vietnam include apparel, footwear, furniture and bedding, agricultural products, seafood, and electrical machinery. U.S.-Vietnam bilateral trade has grown from $451 million in 1995 to nearly $45 billion in 2015. In 2015, U.S. exports to Vietnam grew by 23 percent, the largest year-on-year increase of exports to any of America&rsquos top 50 export markets. U.S. exports to Vietnam were worth $7 billion in 2015, and U.S. imports in 2015 were worth $38 billion. U.S. investment in Vietnam has grown significantly over the past seven years to nearly $1.5 billion. The Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPP) is central to deepening the U.S.-Vietnamese economic relationship, and Vietnam signed the TPP in February 2016. This high-standard trade agreement would provide the United States, Vietnam, and ten other member states a level playing field to compete in markets that together account for almost 40 percent of global GDP. The TPP will create new opportunities for American and Vietnamese workers and businesses, including small businesses promote innovation and the digital economy foster fair competition, transparency, and good governance and promote workers&rsquo rights, conservation, and sustainable growth. The United States and Vietnam intend to establish the U.S.-Vietnam Joint Commission on Civil Nuclear Cooperation to facilitate the implementation of the 123 Agreement on the peaceful uses of nuclear activity,, which came into force in October 2014. An expanding civil nuclear partnership will help reduce emissions from the global power sector and establish the highest standards of nuclear safety, security, and nonproliferation.
Vietnam's Membership in International Organizations
Vietnam and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, ASEAN Regional Forum, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. Vietnam will host APEC in 2017.
The U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam is Ted Osius. He was confirmed by Congress on November 17, 2014 and presented his credentials to President Sang on December 16, 2014. Other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department's Key Officers List.
Vietnam maintains an embassy in the United States at 1233 20th Street, NW, #400, Washington DC 20036 (tel. 202-861-0737).
More information about Vietnam is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:
Reconciling Differences in Vietnam
The first U.S. ambassador to postwar Vietnam, Douglas “Pete” Peterson, meets with Vietnamese Foreign Ministry official Nguyen Xuan Phong, at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi on May 14 1997.
Charles H. Lutz
In 1995, the U.S. and Vietnam decided it was time to put old animosities aside
Two decades after North Vietnamese troops forced Saigon to surrender and unified North and South under communist rule, the United States and Vietnam gingerly took first steps toward reconciliation. In early 1995, before full diplomatic relations were established, the U.S. State Department set up a liaison office in Hanoi to search for joint projects to foster dialog that might be the foundation for broader cooperation.
The two former enemies settled on an international drug control program as a pathway toward normalizing relations. In essence, they decided to join forces in the war on drugs. Like the U.S., Vietnam had a serious problem with illegal drugs—a plague in both their houses.
U.S. officials designated Bob Gelbard, the State Department’s top executive for international drug and law enforcement matters, and Steve Greene, deputy administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration, to lead the effort. In early June 1995 the two arrived in Bangkok to take a whirlwind tour of Thailand, Laos and Cambodia and then head to Hanoi where the first steps toward normalizing relations would take place.
“Normalization of relations” enables countries to establish full diplomatic relations, set up embassies, form business ties and make arrangements for travel between them.
Lutz escorts a captured Viet Cong from a helicopter at Xuan Loc in 1969, when he served as an adviser to the intelligence staff of South Vietnam’s 18th Infantry Division. / Courtesy photo
I had just taken up my position in Bangkok as narcotics attaché at the U.S. Embassy. I was detailed to accompany Gelbard and Greene on their tour. Vietnam was part of my area of responsibility, but the DEA’s interests in Thailand, Laos and Burma, the “Golden Triangle,” source of much of the world’s heroin, and in Bangkok specifically, the drug’s gateway to international markets, were much more compelling. I had served in Vietnam as an Army officer from June 1968 to June 1969. Returning to Vietnam had been the furthest thing from my mind.
I knew Gelbard from his time as the ambassador to Bolivia. I had been responsible for the DEA’s jungle operations in Bolivia and Peru. My job was to deny Colombian drug cartels the coca paste they needed to produce their cocaine. Gelbard, a brilliant guy, was not your typical State Department bureaucrat. He could be as direct with his host nation counterparts as an Army drill sergeant with a raw recruit. That’s what I liked about him.
I knew Greene from my first DEA tour in Thailand. As Saigon was about to fall to communist forces in April 1975, Greene, then the narcotics attaché in South Vietnam, was evacuated to Bangkok. I shared my office space with him while he awaited his new assignment. Over the next two decades, Greene moved smartly up DEA’s chain of command and in 1995 occupied its second-highest position.
I was excited about being part of the effort to mend fences with Vietnam, but also apprehensive. If the Vietnamese government accepted our proposal, it would be my responsibility to make it work, which would mean making nice with my former enemy. The Vietnamese would know that I had been an Army intelligence officer and that my service included six months as an adviser to the intelligence staff of the 18th Infantry Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam. It concerned me that they might hold my prior service against me—making my job much more difficult, if not impossible.
We landed at Noi Bai International Airport on June 14, 1995, and the police escorted our motorcade into Hanoi. I was surprised to find such a beautiful town. There were dozens of lakes, tree-lined streets with shop-houses and a few old French villas scattered about. Motor scooters buzzed about the streets like swarms of bees. The city is low-lying and protected from surrounding waters by numerous dikes. During the war I wondered why we hadn’t blown up the dikes to flood the city and put the North Vietnamese out of business. After entering Hanoi, I was glad we had not taken such action.
The remains of a B-52 bomber shot down in 1972 rest in a small lake in the Ngoc Ha village of Hanoi. / Getty Images
We checked into the historic Metropole Hotel, its wooden-floored rooms, shuttered windows and ornate balconies a throwback to French colonial times. The hotel sits on Sword Lake, named for the magic sword that according to legend was loaned by the resident Turtle God to an ancient Vietnamese emperor who used it to vanquish Chinese invaders.
Our Vietnamese hosts wined and dined us. They took us on a city tour intended to leave no doubt in our minds that their country had survived quite well despite our superior might.
They showed us Ho Chi Minh’s tomb, the carcass of a B-52 bomber shot down over Hanoi and the statue of a shackled John McCain erected on a bank of Truc Bach Lake where his Navy jet had crashed after being shot down in 1967. The future U.S. senator spent 5½ years as
a prisoner of war.
During some free time, I slipped away with Greene, a Marine Vietnam veteran, to pay our respects at the “Hanoi Hilton,” the snide nickname tortured American captives gave to the prison that its French builders named Maison Centrale and the North Vietnamese called Hoa Lo prison. During one of my subsequent visits to Hanoi I happened by the compound and witnessed its remaining walls being knocked down to make way for Hanoi Towers, a shopping mall and business office complex. But the gatehouse remained and was later turned into a museum. Hoa Lo had been a prison for many Vietnamese dissidents during France’s almost 100-year rule.
Our formal meeting with the foreign minister the next day, June 15, did not go according to the State Department’s script. After some diplomatic foreplay, Gelbard tossed a proposition onto the table: movement toward recognition in exchange for cooperation on international drug control. Before the minister could even open his mouth to reply, President Bill Clinton knocked Gelbard’s diplomatic legs out from under him. That very day, the White House signaled to the Vietnamese government the president’s intention to normalize relations with Vietnam contingent only upon its continued, longstanding commitment to account for Americans still missing in action to the fullest extent possible. No mention was made of cooperation on the drug issue. The normalization policy was formalized in a White House ceremony on July 11, 1995.
Gelbard was upset that his proposal had been overshadowed by Clinton’s announcement and wasn’t the historic milestone he had hoped to add to his record of diplomatic achievements. However, he did successfully open the door to cooperation on drugs.
The Vietnamese saw no reason not to work with us. Their police would get training and equipment to help curb their own domestic drug abuse problem. From our perspective, a DEA presence in Vietnam would help us gather intelligence on drug trafficking organizations that might be linked to drug gangs in the United States, and perhaps Vietnamese authorities would work with us to intercept Thai trawlers smuggling heroin through their waters to Hong Kong.
Over the next three years I continued the dialogue, returning 10 times to Hanoi for various meetings at the U.S. Embassy, which officially opened in August 1995. During each visit I’d schmooze with the national chief of police and local law enforcement authorities to strengthen the relationship. I tagged Special Agent Tom Harrigan, who later became the DEA’s chief of operations, to commute between Bangkok and Hanoi to start building the working relationships needed for any enforcement success. A permanent DEA office was established at the American Embassy in Hanoi the year after my tour of duty ended to continue that work and is operating to this day.
I had another asset in this effort, Special Agent Ly Ky Hoang, a Vietnamese-American who accompanied me on each of my visits. Ly had been chief of the Saigon Police Department’s narcotics squad until 1975 and worked closely with the DEA. When Saigon began to crumble, Greene was instrumental in getting Ly and his immediate family evacuated to America. Hired by the DEA as an intelligence analyst, Ly worked his way up to become a criminal investigator.
At first I was concerned that Ly’s former status as a South Vietnamese official might complicate matters in talks with the postwar communist government, but his thorough knowledge of Vietnam’s history and culture, his insights into the personalities of government officials and his fluency in the language were invaluable in accomplishing our goals.
Clinton named Douglas B. “Pete” Peterson America’s first ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. Peterson, a retired Air Force colonel, was a prisoner of war for six years.
Like fellow POW John McCain, he was a driving force in Washington for normalizing relations. Peterson served three terms as a Florida member in the U.S. House of Representatives but had decided in 1995 not to run for re-election in November 1996. Clinton nominated him in May 1996 for the ambassadorship. Peterson arrived in Hanoi in May 1997. While serving as ambassador, he married a Vietnamese-born Australian, Vi-Le, in 1998, literally strengthening the bonds between the U.S. and Vietnam.
Lutz stands beside a statue of shackled Navy pilot John McCain on the bank of Hanoi’s Truc Bach Lake, commemorating the spot where the future U.S. senator’s jet crashed after being shot down in 1967. / Courtesy photo
My duties in Vietnam also took me to Ho Chi Minh City, which many locals still called Saigon, to meet with the city’s chief of police. That gave me the opportunity to visit some of my old haunts for the first time in almost 30 years. The city had grown dramatically in the ensuing decades. Its streets were jammed with cars, buses and trucks jockeying for space—the mirror opposite of low-rise, slow-paced Hanoi. The pragmatic socialist government knew better than to mess with the capitalist industry of Ho Chi Minh City, the engine of the nation’s booming economy.
Yet Ho Chi Minh City wasn’t without disappointments. The War Remnants Museum boasted captured American tanks and aircraft and spewed accusations of American war crimes, painting us in the worst possible light. Young men roamed the streets, apparently having been sired by American GIs and abandoned by their Vietnamese families. The shell of the old U.S. Embassy in Saigon was left standing as a monument to North Vietnam’s ousting of America. Peterson made its razing a precondition for opening an American consulate there.
Many of the venues I remembered were changed or gone altogether. A wooden hammer and sickle hung behind the front desk at the Rex Hotel, a reminder of the era that had followed ours. The hotel’s open-air, rooftop O Club—with $2 steaks and nightly entertainment—had been a favorite of mine during the first six months of my one-year tour of duty. Now the club’s white metal tables and chairs lay on the roof in rusting heaps.
Ly and I couldn’t find the Ponderosa, the French villa that headquartered the 525th Military Intelligence Group, where I stayed while working with Operation Hurricane, which was implemented to prepare Saigon’s defenses for another Tet Offensive, following the one in early 1968. Once that likelihood had faded, the operation was disbanded, and I was reassigned as assistant logistics officer of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion in a compound at the foot of Saigon’s Binh Loi Bridge. We couldn’t find that compound either.
We drove a rental car east through the boonies to Xuan Loc, about 35 miles from Saigon. It was the former home of the ARVN 18th Infantry Division, where I spent my last six months with Military Assistance Command, Vietnam Advisory Team 87.
I told Ly the compound where I stayed wouldn’t be hard to find because it sat just across the road from the airstrip where we launched search-and-destroy missions in Huey helicopters equipped with guns and searchlights, called fireflies. I figured by now it would be the town’s airport. When we reached Xuan Loc we were told there was no airport.
After driving in circles, we stopped an elderly woman with red, betel-nut stained teeth carrying two buckets of coal on a long pole cradled over her shoulders. She remembered the old airstrip and pointed across a field toward a stand of trees.
We parked and walked through the tree line into a small village where Ly asked the first fellow we found if he could direct us to the airstrip. “You’re standing on it,” he told Ly, pointing to our feet. The locals had built their small village around the abandoned, now crumbled macadam pavement.
The man told us he had been in the 18th Infantry Division and invited us into his grass hut for tea. His old army helmet hung on a stake at the front entrance, its only decoration. We sat on the dirt floor as he served us hot tea in tiny chipped cups and then proudly took us on a tour of his mushroom farm.
Before we left Xuan Loc I bought the entire jar of hard candy at the tiny wooden kiosk that served as the village’s general store and cafe and handed it out to kids who had gathered to gawk. I also left a handful of dong, the Vietnamese currency, with the store’s owner, which Ly told me was enough to buy rice wine for our host, my old comrade in arms and his buddies for a month.
Once I found the old airstrip, I was able to locate the MACV compound. It was totally overgrown when we drove by. A guard was posted at the front gate with an AK-47 assault rifle slung over his shoulder. A sign on the gate read, “NO PHOTOGRAPHS.” The building must have been a supply depot, perhaps for weapons or ammunition. Ly thought it best not to stop.
Back in Ho Chi Minh City we drove to Ly’s childhood home. His parents, who had immigrated to the United States some years after he did, were allowed to take only one suitcase apiece, leaving virtually everything they owned behind. The woman who now occupied the home welcomed us in to look around. The furniture owned by Ly’s parents was still there, in exactly the same place where they had left it. Ly spotted the tiny lacquered table where he ate as a child. With tears welling in his eyes, he asked me to take some pictures for his parents. I realized then that even those who escaped the communist takeover had paid a heavy price.
Lutz and a Vietnamese law enforcement counterpart toast improved cooperation between the two countries as Vietnamese-American DEA agent Ly Ky Hoang looks on. / Courtesy photo
With rare exceptions, the Vietnamese people themselves seemed to hold little animosity toward Americans. The only instance I personally observed occurred in late 1996 when I spoke at the graduation ceremony for the DEA’s first international training course in Hanoi. I had just started my remarks when there was a scuffle in the back of the auditorium and one of the students was escorted from the room. Afterward, the director-general of police apologized profusely, explaining that the officer, whose brother was a North Vietnamese soldier killed in the war, had become emotionally distraught. I can only imagine that after a week with DEA instructors he was having second thoughts about closer ties with the Americans.
I had taken my wife with me on that trip. In the evening we attended a banquet hosted by the interior minister to thank the training team for its work. In a government hall along Sword Lake they set out an array of local delicacies fit for an emperor. There were rounds of toasts to each other’s organizations and to the improving relationship between our two nations. After raising our glasses, the hosts had us interlock arms with theirs and say in English, “Bottoms up,” before tossing down each shot of cognac—the national drink, another legacy of the French. The toasts went on for some time. I don’t remember getting back to the hotel.
My three years working to improve relations with the Vietnamese government forced me to put aside any ill will that I may have held for my former enemies and gave me a different perspective on the war, one that crystalized while sipping a Vietnamese-made “33 Beer” at the American-owned R&R Hanoi Tavern. A Vietnamese guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. He spoke English pretty well, and I’m certain he just wanted to practice a bit. At one point I asked him what he thought of the war. “Which one?” he replied.
His response got me thinking. For most Vietnamese people living today the war with the Americans is just another chapter in their history books after wars with China, France and Japan. They paid a dear price during the protracted war with us. Some estimates put total human losses at more than 1 million during that era. Yet, for the most part, they had moved on.
The United States paid a high price as well.
More than 58,000 Americans lost their lives taking a stand against communist aggression in South Vietnam during the Cold War. It took 20 years before we were finally able to move on.
During the 20-plus years since the beginning of that joint effort in the battle over illegal drugs, the relationship between our two nations has blossomed, despite Vietnam’s poor human rights record, and we are allied in another concern: China’s ambitions in Southeast Asia. There has never been any love lost between Vietnam and China, even though China supported the communist Hanoi regime during the war. This time the Hanoi government could be on our side. Maybe the Vietnamese could get that Turtle God to loan us his magic sword. V
Charles Lutz was commissioned an Army intelligence officer through the ROTC program at Pennsylvania State University in December 1967. He deployed to Vietnam in June 1968 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for meritorious service with MACV Advisory Team 87. Lutz concluded his active duty at the Continental Intelligence Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, before beginning a 32-year career as a special agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration. He lives in Salem, South Carolina.
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This section provides historical reference information on aspects of the United States’ relations with the countries of the world. The central component is a guide to matters of diplomatic recognition and the establishment and maintenance of diplomatic relations between the United States and states of the world, from 1776 to the present.
An asterisk indicates former countries, previously recognized by the United States, that have been dissolved or superseded by other states.
This guide brings together information on these subjects from among diverse and widely scattered documentary and archival sources. The most significant categories of information provided for each individual country include:
- the date and circumstances under which the United States recognized, or was recognized by, each state
- the date and mode by which the United States established diplomatic relations with each state
- the date the United States established a physical diplomatic presence through a legation, embassy, or other mission in each country
- and the dates and circumstances of any interruption or resumption of diplomatic relations.
Over time, additional details will be added for each country, such as information on the United States consular presence.
Finally, this section also provides historical information on some territorial entities that the United States has not recognized or with which it does not have diplomatic relations.
Twenty Years of Diplomatic Relations with Vietnam – And What Comes Next
The 20th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam is an opportunity to further deepen our two countries’ Comprehensive Partnership. In January, Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc opened a conference in Hanoi marking this milestone anniversary by exhorting us to move beyond bilateral cooperation to regional and global collaboration, especially in the fields of nonproliferation and climate, as well as water, food, and energy security. He is right. The stated goal of our Comprehensive Partnership is to contribute to peace, stability, cooperation, and prosperity in each country, in the region, and in the world. The recent history of US partnerships with India and Indonesia teaches us that moving beyond bilateral engagement to broader cooperation is necessary and healthy for maturing relationships. 
In their joint statement in July 2013, Presidents Obama and Sang identified nine areas ripe for collaboration. Below I will note progress in each area and identify opportunities for joint activity in the future.
Political and Diplomatic Cooperation
Since 2013, the two governments have rapidly accelerated the tempo of high-level visits more are expected this year. Our dialogue has grown richer and more frank, and for several years Vietnam and the United States have worked together more effectively in regional fora. As the United States, Vietnam, and other countries continue developing the Lower Mekong Initiative, we have proven that we share key objectives.
Vice Minister Ngoc also urged the United States and Vietnam to work together to support a stable international system and international law. Both countries view challenges to the status quo in the South China Sea through a similar lens, wishing to use diplomacy, international legal mechanisms, and capacity building in the maritime realm to deter aggression and unilateral action in waters through which half of the world’s seaborne cargo passes. We have begun to work together at the United Nations—even in the United Nations Human Rights Council—although our voting records continue to reflect serious disagreement on some important issues. Party-to-party ties are strengthening, including high-level visits in both directions this year. A key goal for the future is to build common understanding on a number of issues with the Ministries of National Defense and Public Security. Soon, we expect to conclude negotiations on a New Embassy Compound, enabling us to build a safe chancery that reflects the growing importance of our relationship.
Trade and Economic Ties
Annual trade volume increased from less than $500 million to $35 billion in 20 years of normalized relations, although growth in US imports of Vietnamese goods has been faster than growth of our exports to Vietnam. Now that we are in the end game of negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), we can anticipate that Vietnam’s participation in this high-standard trade and comprehensive agreement will lead to significant changes in management of the economy and new trade and investment opportunities as barriers fall. With Vietnam in TPP, and with its continued progress toward greater transparency and respect for rule of law, the United States could become Vietnam’s number one investor, as it is in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a whole.
Thanks to commitment from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, we are making progress toward achieving Category One status, a necessary condition for direct flights between our two countries. The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Governance for Inclusive Growth program helps Vietnam advance an economic reform agenda that will benefit the relationship, as well as investors, regional trade, and Vietnam’s people. Major opportunities exist for trade and investment expansion of Vietnam’s infrastructure, in its rapidly growing aviation sector, and in clean energy. A troubling impediment to this growth in economic ties will be Vietnamese visa restrictions. While China now issues ten-year, multiple-entry visas, Vietnam has moved in the opposite direction and restricts visitors to three months and a single entry.
Science and Technology Cooperation
For 14 years the US-Vietnam Joint Commission on Science and Technology has coordinated and promoted cooperation, much of it involving academic institutions. A crowning achievement was the conclusion of a 123 Agreement on civil-nuclear energy. The agreement sets the stage for closer civil nuclear cooperation for decades while also strengthening our nonproliferation commitments. At the same time, we celebrate a growing number of collaborative scientific activities supported by the Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research program.
Our partnership on climate change adaption and mitigation is also deepening. USAID is implementing a substantial Forests and Deltas program to help Vietnam adapt to rising sea levels and adopt more sustainable land use practices. The United States has offered to assist Vietnam to develop its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution to the global fight against climate change. Vietnam recently proposed collaboration with the United States in food security and nutrition, especially in the Mekong Delta. Together we should explore the food security implications of Vietnam’s vulnerability to climate change and what it will mean for the region and beyond. Bilateral space collaboration, which enhances telecommunications, climate work, maritime domain awareness, and disaster prediction, is also an exciting avenue for further collaboration.
Environment and Health
We are working with Vietnamese law enforcement agencies to combat wildlife trafficking, and have partnered with local authorities, businesses, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to build an alliance to preserve Ha Long Bay, a UNESCO world heritage site threatened by multi-source pollution. Working with Vietnam’s Ministry for Planning and Investment and the United Nations Development Program, the United States will partner with Vietnam as it implements its Green Growth Strategy and sets the country on a path of lower emissions development. The Lower Mekong Initiative gives us an opportunity to deepen collaboration on water issues.
In the field of health, the United States has invested nearly $700 million through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Vietnam has also become a focus country for the President’s Global Health Security Agenda, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to work closely with Vietnam to help prevent the spread of Ebola. After successfully weathering SARS and avian flu, Vietnam is preparing for the next epidemic. The Minister of Health and I inaugurated an Emergency Operations Center that links Hanoi to four other regions and will serve as a War Room for communicating about infectious disease outbreaks. In the future, the United States and Vietnam could collaborate on combating tuberculosis and drug-resistant malaria. The United States’ long record of support for persons with disabilities—in terms of health, education, and legal protection—began before the normalization of diplomatic relations and continues, with strong congressional support, to offer compelling opportunities for engagement.
Through our Fulbright exchanges, over 1,000 students and scholars from our two countries have promoted closer education cooperation and deeper understanding through study, research, or teaching in one another’s country. The Fulbright Economic Teaching Program (FETP) just celebrated its 20th year transforming the way economics and public policy are taught in Vietnam. FETP’s 1,100 graduates serve in important national and provincial leadership positions. A private-public partnership, the Higher Engineering Education Alliance Partnership (HEEAP) has attracted millions of dollars in funding support from six major corporate partners, along with engineering equipment and expertise. HEEAP aims to transform engineering education in Vietnam and produce work-ready graduates for the country’s booming high-tech sector.
Strong Congressional support for an independent Fulbright University of Vietnam (FUV) has inspired US and Vietnamese companies to consider major contributions. FUV will be the first private, not-for-profit university in Vietnam, and, building on the work begun by FETP, will create a transparently run, academic meritocracy and a platform for thoughtful policy recommendations. We recently announced major new funding for higher education partnerships, and we continue to expand our nationwide alumni network and improve English language teaching capabilities. Vietnam ranks first in Southeast Asia in the number of international students studying in the United States. We must ensure that this student exchange, in both directions, continues to grow.
War Legacy Issues
Thanks to strong leadership by Senator Patrick Leahy and the long-term engagement of many in and out of government, the United States has invested more than $65 million in dioxin cleanup to date and $80 million to cleaning up unexploded ordnance (UXO). This year we have doubled our annual contributions to UXO activities to more than $10 million. We look forward to helping Vietnam’s newly established Mine Action Center (VNMAC) to become a fully functioning center that can engage with international donors and NGOs. Vietnam continues to support our efforts to provide the fullest possible accounting for our MIA/POWs, and the two countries are sharing expertise that may allow better accounting for Vietnam’s missing.
Defense and Security
We continue to make steady progress in all five priority areas of cooperation specified in the 2011 Defense Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding: maritime security, high-level dialogues, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR), and peacekeeping operations. Regular high-level military visits help both sides understand and grow more comfortable with each other. This mutual understanding is turning talk into action. Last year, we conducted the first search-and-rescue exercise between our two Navies and an urban search-and-rescue exchange between our two Armies. Resource intensive activities such as Pacific Partnership and Pacific Angel are enhancing HA/DR cooperation. As Vietnam considers expanding its contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations, the United States will continue to offer support. Other positive steps include the partial lifting of the US lethal weapons ban and Vietnam’s decision to join the Proliferation Security Initiative.
Focused on modernizing its defensive capabilities, Vietnam will of course rely on its traditional partners. However, the United States has much to offer as well, and we will continue to take a long-term view to building a defense relationship. As we learn to work together, Vietnam will come to view the United States as a partner who can be relied upon to reinforce and strengthen regional security and international law. This will not happen overnight, and the United States must remain patient and take a long view of security cooperation. Progress in other streams of activity will likely facilitate progress in the security realm, which lags behind due to suspicions born of our complex history.
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights
The United States supports a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that respects the rule of law and human rights. Our annual human rights dialogue has been fruitful, and Vietnam’s National Assembly unanimously voted to ratify the Convention Against Torture and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Vietnam has allowed greater space for religious freedom and released some prisoners of conscience although more needs to be done. Vietnam also modified laws to decriminalize marriage between two adults of the same gender and supported action in the United Nations that benefits Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) persons worldwide.
In addition to continuing to call for the release of all prisoners of conscience, the United States is focusing on working to support Vietnamese efforts at systemic legal reform and expansion of individual freedoms under the country’s new constitution and international human rights commitments. The United States stands ready to work with Vietnamese authorities to advance public accountability, transparency (including access to information), and development of civil society. We are providing technical assistance on core Vietnamese laws, including on the budget and on access to information. The government has begun consulting with civil society and the private sector in the process of making and implementing laws. The United States must continue linking progress on human rights to progress in other areas, including economic and security cooperation.
Culture, Tourism and Sport
85 percent of Vietnamese under the age of 35 view the United States as their country’s closest partner. Through direct outreach, traditional and social media, and our cultural centers, the US Mission is connected to tens of thousands of young Vietnamese every day. We consistently demonstrate sincere respect for Vietnam’s people, history, values, and culture. We have set up partnerships between Vietnamese and US cultural institutions, such as the Kennedy Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and continue to fund numerous two-way exchanges that help build people-to-people ties. We reopened a program permitting adoptions from Vietnam, starting with children over five, siblings, and children with special needs. An increasingly influential Vietnamese diaspora will play an ever more important role in strengthening linkages between the two countries.
The US and Vietnamese governments must use high-level visits and 20th anniversary events to carry out collaborative activities, make progress on remaining issues, and push forward new ideas. We must keep in mind, however, that for the past 40 years people-to-people contacts between the United States and Vietnam have moved faster than government-to-government engagement. The private sector, NGOs, educational institutions, think tanks, and foundations have played and continue to play a central role in building the United States-Vietnam partnership. Where nongovernment partnerships are healthy and active, relations are strongest.
As we look to advance the Comprehensive Partnership, we are clear-eyed. Our partnership will achieve its fullest potential if we work together on issues on which we agree, remain frank and open where we have differences—such as in the critical area of human rights—and be willing to broaden into new areas of cooperation.
 “Global Swing States: Deepening Partnerships with India and Indonesia,” Asia Policy, January 2014.
Will We See a US-Vietnam Strategic Partnership?
Common concerns over China’s have brought the United States and Vietnam together, but there are frictions, too.
In the context of U.S.-China strategic competition, Vietnam has become increasingly important in U.S. foreign policy as indicated in the 2017 U.S. National Security Strategy, the 2018 U.S. National Defense Strategy, and the 2019 Indo-Pacific Report. Once enemies, the United States and Vietnam became partners when they signed a comprehensive partnership in 2013. As 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations, will the two countries upgrade the relationship to a strategic partnership?
Common concerns over China’s provocative and unilateral actions in the South China Sea have brought the United States and Vietnam together in a short time. As China has repeatedly used economic coercion to punish countries that challenge its territorial claims and foreign policy ambitions, the best way for the United States to compete with China strategically is to reduce Beijing’s economic power by helping U.S. allies and partners lessen their economic dependences on the Chinese market.
Since the establishment of the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership, the two sides have committed to heightening diplomatic and political relations. Vietnamese leaders who paid official visits to the White House include President Truong Tan Sang (2013), General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong (2015), and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (2017). From the U.S. side, former President Barack Obama and current President Donald Trump visited Vietnam in 2016 and 2017 respectively. When Trump came to Hanoi for the second North Korea-U.S. summit in February 2019, he also had an official meeting with General Secretary and President Trong.
Meanwhile, bilateral trade grew 261 percent between 2013 and 2019, from $29.7 billion to $77.6 billion. The United States is now Vietnam’s third largest trading partner and biggest export market.
U.S.-Vietnam defense ties have also strengthened dramatically since 2014, when China deployed a state-owned oil rig on Vietnam’s side of the hypothetical median line of their overlapping exclusive economic zones (EEZs). In 2016, Obama lifted the ban on lethal weapons sales to Vietnam during his visit to Hanoi. Since then, the United States has helped Vietnam improve its maritime capability, including the transfer of a Hamilton-class cutter to the Vietnamese Coast Guard in 2017 and the delivery of 18 “Metal Shark” patrol boats in the following years. Then-U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Vietnam twice in 2018. The U.S. Navy has sent two aircraft carriers to Vietnam’s Da Nang port—the USS Carl Vinson in March 2018 and the USS Theodore Roosevelt in March 2020. Vietnam joined the Rim of the Pacific exercise in 2018 and planned to participate again in 2020.
Despite remarkable achievements, there are challenges in U.S.-Vietnam relations. Although Hanoi has improved its human rights record, concerns remain in several areas, including freedom of expression and labor rights. Members of the U.S. Congress, especially those whose constituencies include large Vietnamese American populations, have put pressure on the U.S. government to criticize Vietnam over rights issues. This leads to suspicion from Hanoi about a perceived “peaceful evolution” — that U.S. support of pro-democracy dissidents and promotion of higher human rights standards aims at overthrowing the Vietnamese Communist Party.
Meanwhile, Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a comprehensive and high-standard free trade agreement between 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, removed a major plank of trade relations with Vietnam.
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Besides the TPP issue, the two countries have other irritants in the trade relations. The U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam has grown steadily since 1997, surpassing $20 billion in 2014. It increased a whopping 41 percent as the U.S.-China trade war escalated, going from $39.5 billion in 2018 to $55.8 billion in 2019. In February 2020, the Trump administration removed Vietnam from the list of self-declaring developing countries that receive preferential trade benefits under the World Trade Organization. It appears that the move was heavily based on the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam.
Defense and security cooperation — despite impressive growth — has not matured as fast as U.S. expectations. Since the lift of lethal weapons ban, Vietnam has not made any purchase of American-made weapons. As more than 80 percent of Vietnam’s military equipment is from Russia, it would be a considerable challenge to incorporate U.S. weapons into the existing systems. Additionally, Russian-made weapons and equipment are seen as less expensive than American counterparts.
Another challenge in U.S.-Vietnam defense relations is Vietnam’s status under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, through which the United States imposes sanctions on countries that buy arms and military equipment from Russia. Although former U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis sought a waiver from Congress for Vietnam, the final decision has not been made.
Although problems exist, the prospects for a U.S.-Vietnam strategic partnership are largely positive. Unlike the U.S. Congress, the Trump administration appears to downplay human rights issue in its relations with Vietnam. It has not imposed any sanctions on Vietnam as it has done toward other countries.
In response to U.S. concern over its trade deficit, Vietnam has showed commitments to repair the trade balance. The Vietnamese government promised to increase its imports from the United States, especially farm products, and announced that it was also considering cutting tariffs on U.S. agricultural imports.
In Vietnam’s most recent defense white paper, published in November 2019, the country’s longstanding “three noes” principle (no military alliances, no siding with one country against another, and no foreign military bases) is now followed by a caveat: “depending on circumstances and specific conditions, Viet Nam will consider developing necessary, appropriate defense and military relations with other countries… regardless of differences in political regimes and levels of development.” This is the first time Vietnam has explicitly given room for interpretation of its “three noes” principle, which will pave the way for Vietnam to deepen defense cooperation with the United States.
FLIGHT SUIT DISPLAYED
The flight suit and other gear worn by McCain when he was shot down on October 26, 1967 is propped up in a glass cabinet with a caption that has recently been updated.
“After returning to his country, John McCain became the Republican Senator from Arizona and he is currently a candidate in the 2008 election,” the caption says.
Exhibits describe the heavy bombing of Hanoi and say the POWs were treated well, but McCain says he was put in solitary confinement, beaten and tortured.
By coincidence, Pete Peterson, another former POW who became the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam in 1995, visited the prison museum on Sunday with a group of American business executives.
Peterson told Reuters Television that McCain “understands the benefits of having a friend rather than an enemy sitting out in a very sensitive part of the world”.
Without mentioning the U.S. war in Iraq and the inevitable comparisons that have been made, the former envoy said: “It’s just a very sensitive time in America’s history and it will be interesting to see how the election turns out.”
Chuck Searcy, a veteran who has made his home in Vietnam since the mid-1990s, said he hoped if McCain became U.S. President, his ties to the Southeast Asian country would help with wartime legacies.
“Landmines and unexploded ordnance which litter the countryside and which have impeded economic development and recovery, that might be enhanced,” said Searcy, who works on the issue through representing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund.
“We might get further along the road with the thorny issue of agent orange.”
Studies have shown the compound of dioxin, a component of “agent orange” herbicides sprayed by the United States during the war, is still present in so-called “hot spots” at levels hundreds of times higher than would be accepted elsewhere.
The Vietnam War and Its Impact - Vietnam and the united states
Foreign relations between the United States and Vietnam soured after 1975. They did not fully recover until the mid-1990s, when economic, political, and cultural ties revived, leading to a vibrant period of political reconciliation by the year 2000. Following North Vietnam's victory in 1975, the U.S. attitude toward Vietnam was antagonistic. In the Paris Peace Accords, the United States had agreed to provide $3.3 billion over five years to help rebuild the shattered infrastructure of Vietnam. Rather than meeting its obligations, the United States extended to all of Vietnam the trade embargo against communist North Vietnam that had been ratified under the Trading with the Enemy Act passed during the early years of the conflict. The United States further marginalized Vietnam by halting credits and loans from monetary institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank. Seeking acceptance in the international arena, Vietnam attempted several times to join the United Nations, only to be halted by American vetoes.
Relations with the United States began to soften during the first year of the Carter administration, though war wounds still ran too deep to permit a relationship of cooperation and agreement between the two nations. President Carter and Congress indicated that relations could be normalized if the vexing issues surrounding prisoners of war (POWs) and soldiers missing in action (MIAs) were resolved. Approximately 2,500 U.S. service personnel continued to be reported as missing in the jungles of Vietnam, and Americans desperately wanted an accurate assessment of their numbers and of whether any of them were still alive in Vietnamese camps. Optimism grew in 1977 and 1978 as the two nations discussed preliminary issues.
President Carter sent Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke in May 1977 to meet with Vietnamese officials. The talks broke down, however, when Vietnam demanded several billion dollars in payment for war damages, which the United States rejected because the Vietnamese had allegedly violated the 1975 Paris Accords by invading South Vietnam. President Carter indicated that the United States would provide aid, but that funding could not be linked to normalization or the POW-MIA issue.
When the Vietnamese finally relented on their demands for reparations, they failed to receive a corresponding overture from the United States. This stemmed from official and public alarm over Vietnamese immigration, a Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, and an increasingly powerful Soviet presence in the region (epitomized by the Soviet base at Cam Ranh Bay, the largest military installation of the USSR outside of its borders). After the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia, the United States sent covert aid to noncommunist Cambodian guerrillas who were fighting Vietnam.
Meanwhile, as relations between China and Vietnam worsened, U.S.–Chinese relations improved, culminating in the establishment of full diplomatic ties between the two nations in 1978. This development, combined with Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1978, its treaty of alliance with the Soviet Union the same year, and a border war with China in 1979 gave more impetus to American hostility toward Vietnam. During the final years of the Cold War, Vietnam found itself strongly aligned with anti-American forces that helped offset billions of dollars lost from the American trade embargo.
At the heart of the inability of American and Vietnamese leaders to reconcile national interests in the 1970s and 1980s lay the troublesome POWMIA issue. Although the number of MIAs in World War II and the Korean War (80,000 and 8,000, respectively) was much greater than MIAs in the Vietnam War, the small number of missing American soldiers in the latter conflict (1,992 in all of Southeast Asia, 1,498 in Vietnam) captured the national psyche. They became the focus of a national crusade that retained its fervor into the twenty-first century. The plight of MIAs received much greater attention in the aftermath of the conflict as national leaders and the media fed public alarm over the fate of missing veterans. Although the Department of Defense declared the MIAs deceased, it could not stop the issue from growing to national importance. Unconfirmed public sightings of U.S. soldiers in Vietnam by refugees and others led to expeditions by American veterans to find their missing comrades. As of 2001 no sightings had been confirmed, although human remains were repatriated from Vietnam to the United States as part of an ongoing plan of cooperation between the two nations. More than $5 million were spent annually by the United States on attempts to find and return the remains of missing servicemen in Southeast Asia.
During the 1980s President Ronald Reagan kept the MIA issue at the forefront of American relations with Vietnam. Supported by the National League of POW/MIA Families, Reagan harnessed a national crusade to hinge the normalization of relations with Vietnam on the fate of the MIAs. In July 1985 Vietnam finally allowed an American inspection team to visit alleged MIA burial sites. The return of the remains of several dozen pilots that year eased tensions and led to further investigations. In 1987 and 1989 Vietnam allowed General John Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to visit with Vietnamese leaders as an emissary of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
Realizing that further concessions would help improve a stagnant economy, Vietnam assisted in returning the remains of more than two hundred American soldiers between 1985 and 1990 and also provided access to archives, war files, and cemetery records. They also allowed the United States to establish a Hanoi office to oversee MIA investigations. Between 1993 and 2001, joint ventures by the United States and Vietnam generated thirty-nine official searches that yielded 288 sets of remains and the identification of another 135 American servicemen previously unaccounted for in Vietnam. In a move to further pacify American political leaders, Vietnam announced in 1995 that its continuing cooperation regarding American MIAs and POWs did not depend on an accurate accounting by the United States and its allies of the whereabouts of the 330,000 Vietcong and North Vietnamese MIAs.
Kindled by the MIA issue, relations between the United States and Vietnam grew closer during the 1990s. As the Cold War came to a close in 1989, Vietnam finally agreed to withdraw all of its troops from Cambodia, ending its long and costly period of isolation from the United States. The Cold War's termination also improved relations by ending the Soviet-Vietnamese partnership. To further ease foreign antagonism toward Vietnam and to increase foreign investment, the communist government removed from the Vietnamese constitution unflattering characterizations of Western countries.
Other agreements between Vietnam and the United States centered upon the issue of Vietnamese political refugees. To improve relations with many of its southern people, the Vietnamese government in September 1987 released more than six thousand military and political prisoners, many of them senior officials in the former government of South Vietnam. Under the Orderly Departure Program in 1990, Vietnam agreed to assist the United Nations in helping refugees utilize official channels rather than leaky boats to immigrate to America. Another agreement, signed in 1990, enabled former South Vietnamese officials and army officers to immigrate to America.