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Ironduke
18 Nov 03,, 18:43
Warship visit lifts US-Vietnam ties

A US frigate is due to dock in Vietnam on Wednesday, becoming the first US warship to visit since the Vietnam War.

The USS Vandegrift is to spend four days in port near Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon and a centre for US forces before they withdrew in 1973.

The ship's visit is being seen as a symbolic step towards healing relations between the two countries.

Diplomatic ties were re-established in 1995 and since then bi-lateral trade has been growing rapidly.


"In the past, the presence of US Navy ships reflected aggression against Vietnamese. This time, it's a sign of friendship and improving relations. That's a significant change," Vietnamese legislator and historian Duong Trung Quoc told the Associated Press news agency.

Defence

Analysts in the US have also remarked on the visit's symbolic significance.

"The idea that an American Navy ship will be calling in what used to be Saigon is stunning... visual images projected by that will be very powerful and powerful positively," said James Reckner, director of the Lubbock Vietnam Centre in Texas, and a Vietnam veteran.

The visit is the latest of several recent indications that relations have reached a new level.

Last week, Vietnam's Defence Minister Pham Van Tra was in Washington for talks with the US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld.

It was the first time a senior Vietnamese military official had visited the United States.

Hanoi has said it did not want to dwell on the past, and that better bilateral relations were the best way to solve issues left over by the war.

Analysts said the improving relations also reflected changes in the regional balance of power.

"The Vietnamese now feel comfortable enough to share their strategic concerns with the United States - that means China," Nayan Chanda, editor of Yaleglobal Online Magazine, told BBC News Online.

China is now a regional superpower and an old rival of Vietnam, so Hanoi's relationship with the United States gives it a potential ally in the region to offset Chinese influence.

"I think there will be an increase in cooperation in military areas, like joint sea rescue operations... there could also be anti-terrorist operations," Mr Chanda said.

Missing

US troops started withdrawing from Vietnam in 1973 after a peace treaty was signed in Paris.

Two years later Saigon fell after the South Vietnamese, who the Americans had supported, were overrun by the Communist North Vietnamese.

A decade of frosty relations followed, with the first sign of a thaw appearing in the mid-1980s, when Vietnam first cooperated with the Americans in the search for US servicemen missing in action (MIA).

The MIA issue is an ongoing preoccupation for the United States, which lost 58,000 soldiers in the conflict.

An estimated three million Vietnamese were killed.

Under the Clinton administration relations between the two countries improved rapidly. By 1995 diplomatic relations had been re-established and since then bi-lateral trade has flourished.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3279863.stm

Ironduke
19 Nov 03,, 12:39
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