FROM CONFLICT TO COMPROMISE: THE NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND VIETNAM; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 98
(Extensions of Remarks - June 13, 2018)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E834-E835]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]





FROM CONFLICT TO COMPROMISE: THE NORMALIZATION OF RELATIONS BETWEEN THE 
                  UNITED STATES OF AMERICA AND VIETNAM

                                 ______
                                 

                      HON. SANFORD D. BISHOP, JR.

                               of georgia

                    in the house of representatives

                        Wednesday, June 13, 2018

  Mr. BISHOP of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, given the recent National History 
Day contest, I am pleased to include in the Record a historical paper 
written by one of my constituents, Ms. Catherine Kennedy of Columbus, 
Georgia, entitled ``From Conflict to Compromise: The Normalization of 
Relations Between the United States of America and Vietnam.'' Catherine 
is representing Georgia in the Junior Division of the National History 
Day contest.

       The Vietnam War ended with the signing of the Paris Peace 
     Accords in 1973; however, the United States (U.S.) and 
     Vietnam remained hostile for another two decades. After the 
     war, Vietnam stayed aligned with the Soviet Union, while the 
     U.S. treated Vietnam as a hostile power imposing trade 
     embargos, blocking international loans, and refusing to open 
     diplomatic relations. With the collapse of the Soviet Union 
     in 1991, Vietnam lost Moscow's support for its economy and 
     was left on its own. Within the U.S., there was growing 
     pressure to account for Prisoners of War (POW) and Missing In 
     Action (MIA) from the Vietnam War. The hostility and conflict 
     between the two countries turned to compromise in the mid-
     1990s when both countries needed each other to meet their 
     individual national goals. For the Vietnamese, it was the end 
     to the trade embargo and the normalization of diplomatic 
     relations. For the Americans, it was the resolution of the 
     long standing POW/MIA issue.
       The Vietnam War started long before President Lyndon 
     Johnson introduced ground combat troops into South Vietnam in 
     1965. The war actually started immediately after the defeat 
     of Japan in World War II when communist forces under Ho Chi 
     Minh battled French forces for independence gaining victory 
     in 1954. After the French collapse and withdrawal, Vietnam 
     was divided into North and South Vietnam along the 17th 
     parallel.
       Relations between North and South Vietnam continued to 
     deteriorate over the years and the United States, fearing the 
     spread of communism in Asia, introduced advisors and aid to 
     South Vietnam. In 1964, a disputed naval incident in the Gulf 
     of Tonkin led Congress to authorize military action. Before 
     the end of 1967, over 500,000 ground troops were in Vietnam.
       By 1973, the Vietnam War seemed unwinnable to Americans. 
     Amid mounting protests at home and facing a war weary public, 
     the United States signed the Paris Peace Accords bringing a 
     ceasefire to the battlefield. At the same time, Hanoi 
     released 591 American POWs during Operation Homecoming. 
     Unfortunately, many American servicemen remained unaccounted 
     for after this release. The fate of these missing servicemen 
     remained an obstacle to normalizing relations between the 
     U.S. and Vietnam for the next twenty years.
       After the return of the POWs in 1973, almost 2200 
     servicemen remained unaccounted for or missing. Most of the 
     missing were in Vietnam, but some were in the neighboring 
     countries of Laos and Cambodia. As the U.S. and Vietnam 
     approached the 20-Year anniversary of the end of the war, 
     pressure mounted in both countries to settle the issues. 
     Families of the missing in the U.S. put intense political 
     pressure on their government to get the fullest possible 
     accounting for those lost, while factions in Vietnam wanted 
     access to trade and markets in the U.S. to help develop and 
     modernize its economy. Mr. Vu Chi Cong, Chief of Staff, for 
     the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (The Vietnamese 
     State Department) in discussions with U.S. officials 
     reiterated that the Vietnamese needed help with their 
     economy. Specifically, they wanted access to the 
     International Monetary Fund and World Bank loans, favorable 
     trade status with the United States with access to markets, 
     the ability for U.S. based companies to invest in Vietnam and 
     open factories, access to U.S. construction companies to bid 
     on internal infrastructure projects like the repaving of 
     National Highway 1, and finally, the ability for Vietnamese 
     students to study abroad at American Universities. At no time 
     did the Vietnamese discuss better relationships would counter 
     increased Chinese influence in the region or bring up the 
     disputed Spratly Islands.
       These pressures moved the former enemies from conflict to 
     compromise resulting in the opening of the U.S. Embassy in 
     Hanoi in August 1995. The cooperation between the U.S. and 
     Vietnam in accounting for the missing between 1992-1995 made 
     compromise possible. By the time the Embassy opened, the list 
     of missing had decreased to 1,615 servicemen. The Vietnamese, 
     by all measures evaluated by the U.S., were fully cooperating 
     in rendering the fullest possible accounting for missing 
     Americans.
       The belief in Vietnamese cooperation was fairly new. After 
     the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, many people in the U.S. 
     believed Vietnam still held POWs in secret prison camps 
     throughout the country. As proof, they pointed to random but 
     sensational reports of missing Americans seen in Vietnam. 
     Sensational actions by activists, like Billy Hendon, drew 
     attention to the subject. With these reports of servicemen 
     still being held captive, the National League of Families 
     (NLF) formed to pressure for release of any POW/MIAs still in 
     captivity. The NLF put constant political pressure on the 
     U.S. government to bring our missing home. They kept the 
     issue alive as Vietnam sought to normalize relations with the 
     U.S.
       Throughout the years, one question challenged U.S. 
     officials: how could the U.S. measure Vietnamese cooperation 
     on the POW/MIA issue? President George Bush first defined the 
     measures and President Bill Clinton validated them again in 
     March 1992. Vietnamese cooperation was measured in four 
     specific areas: 1. Recovery and identification of remains; 2. 
     Access to documents; 3. Trilateral cooperation (U.S./Vietnam/
     Laos for border cases); and 4. Support for field operations/
     investigations.
       The Vietnamese knew what the U.S. measured and understood 
     cooperation would, in the end, get them the normalization and 
     trade they wanted. Vietnam decided to cooperate so that by 
     February 1994, President Clinton could lift the trade embargo 
     on Vietnam. This action further encouraged cooperation 
     between the U.S. and Vietnam to discover the fate of American 
     POW/MIAs remaining unaccounted for after the war. Clinton 
     also believed improved business relations between the U.S. 
     and Vietnam benefited both countries.
       Once the trade embargo was lifted, Vietnamese cooperation 
     got even better. The cooperation was observed, documented, 
     and evaluated by Joint Task Force Full Accounting (JTF-FA) 
     and its forward detachment working in Hanoi, Vietnam. See 
     Appendix I-IV for pictures depicting the JTF-FA cooperation. 
     The Defense Department formed JTF-FA in 1992. Its mission was 
     to resolve the status of missing servicemen. They oversaw all 
     investigations and recovery missions in Vietnam. Their main 
     goal was recovery and transfer of remains to the U.S. for 
     identification and eventual return to their families.
       Initially, Vietnam seemed slow to provide documents dealing 
     with the POW/MIA issue; however, with continued pressure and 
     increasing trade with the U.S., Hanoi gradually provided 
     reports, opened a Joint Documents Center, while continuing 
     support for recovery operations across the country. See 
     Appendix II for depiction of operations. At the same time, 
     they provided amnesty to witnesses the U.S. wished to 
     interview. The Central Intelligence Agency reported, 
     ``Vietnam has become more cooperative in receiving questions 
     concerning U.S. personal reported as possible prisoners of 
     war or missing in action in the Vietnam War. The government 
     has made several important gestures including:
       Turning over more remains and material evidence than during 
     the preceding 13 years. See Appendix III for picture of 
     turning over remains and material evidence.
       Participating, for the first time, in joint investigations 
     of site where American planes crashed or missing service 
     members were last seen
       Beginning in 1990, giving U.S. experts access to military 
     museums and archives containing records detailing Vietnamese 
     investigation of American losses.
       The areas highlighted in the report directly align to the 
     measures the U.S. evaluated when assessing Vietnamese 
     cooperation. Additionally, by the time a normalization 
     decision was made, the Vietnamese had turned over close to 
     30,000 documents related to 820 cases. At the same time, they 
     provided over 2,000 photographs and opened a Joint 
     Documents Center where U.S. and Vietnamese investigators 
     could work.
       Recovery operations done by JTF-FA became a key measure of 
     Vietnamese cooperation. Formal repatriation ceremonies were 
     held in Hanoi and Hawaii after each recovery operation as 
     depicted in Appendix 7. JTF-FA conducted missions five to six 
     times a year in Vietnam to excavate sites, conduct 
     investigations, and recover bodies of missing American 
     servicemen. Each mission lasted thirty to forty-five days. 
     Site locations ranged from mountainous terrain, farmland, and 
     even underwater. Recovery sites were controlled just like 
     archeological digs. Any remains of servicemen found were 
     turned over after each operation for identification by the 
     U.S. Army Central Identification Lab in Hawaii (CILHI).
       Showing cooperation, the Vietnamese created the Vietnamese 
     Office Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP). This office staffed 
     by members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the military, 
     and the Ministry of the Interior worked with JTF-FA solving 
     cases. Many of the Vietnamese assigned to the work lost 
     relatives in the war. One official, Senior Colonel Tran Bien, 
     when interviewed on why he supported recovery operations said 
     simply, ``it is the right thing to do.'' Appendix 1-4 depict 
     pictures of Vietnamese support to recovery operations under 
     the VNOSMP. Note: Senior Colonel Bien died in a helicopter 
     crash during a recovery operation in April 2001 killing 
     sixteen Vietnamese and Americans.
       As cooperation continued, the U.S. successfully recovered 
     and identified missing servicemen. For example, because of 
     cooperation, cases like Captain Charles Barnes were solved. 
     See Appendix V for picture of Captain Barnes. Captain Barnes 
     became MIA after his aircraft failed to arrive at Da Nang, 
     Vietnam. JTF-FA led multiple investigations in 1993, 1999, 
     and in 2000 when his crash

[[Page E835]]

     site was excavated. Captain Barnes' remains were eventually 
     returned to his family for burial.
       According to a report by JTF-FA Detachment 2 in Hanoi, 
     Vietnamese cooperation throughout the period remained 
     excellent. All recovery team leaders commented positively on 
     cooperation at the central, provincial, and local levels of 
     government. One team leader described cooperation and the 
     Vietnamese preparation done to support the joint field 
     operations, as the best he'd ever seen in Vietnam. 
     Additionally, reports from senior JTF-FA officials in 
     Vietnam: Col. Mel Richmond (1994-95) and Col. Timothy Bosse 
     (1995-96) rated Vietnamese cooperation as high.
       As cooperation strengthened, Vietnam saw the benefits of 
     growth. The U.S. paid Vietnam for its workers, equipment, and 
     land use. Millions of dollars a year went to the Vietnamese 
     government in support of recovery operations. The CIA 
     concluded ``Hanoi's cooperation has been sparked by its 
     impression that relations with the U.S. are warming, albeit 
     at a slower pace than Vietnam would like, and is fueled by 
     Hanoi's desperate need to attract financial assistance to 
     improve the sagging Vietnam economy. We believe that Hanoi is 
     badly interested in access to badly needed funds from the 
     International Monetary Fund and The World Bank; Hanoi 
     probably hopes a more cooperative attitude on the POW MIA 
     issue will weaken the U.S. resistance to loans''.
       Additionally, there was a new generation of Vietnamese 
     wanting the war put behind them. They called it a ``musty 
     history.'' Many young Vietnamese wanted to enter the business 
     world. They wanted Vietnam to find its identity and catch up 
     economically with the rest of South-East Asia. A cornerstone 
     to solidify strengthening relations and putting the past 
     behind them was the opening of the U.S. embassy in Vietnam in 
     August 1995 in Hanoi. With the opening, President Clinton 
     extended full diplomatic recognition to Vietnam.
       The opening of the embassy, as depicted in Appendix 6, 
     finished a process begun by the Bush Administration in 1991 
     when Washington and Hanoi agreed on steps for recognition. 
     President Clinton stated, ``This moment offers us the 
     opportunity to bind up our own wounds,'' evoking words used 
     by Lincoln at the end of the Civil War. ``They have resisted 
     time for too long. We can move onto common ground.'' Clinton 
     also stated he would continue to press Vietnam for full 
     accounting of our remaining missing service personnel. He 
     argued that in the months after lifting the trade embargo 
     more than 29 missing Americans were identified and Hanoi 
     turned over hundreds of pages of relevant documents. At the 
     same time, Vietnam's Prime Minister, Vo Van Kiet, pledged to 
     the U.S. to continue cooperation in helping account for 
     missing service members.
       In the end, both countries got what they needed turning 
     conflict into compromise. The U.S. got cooperation on the 
     POW/MIA issue to include conducting recovery operations 
     within Vietnam. Vietnam received desperately needed money for 
     economic development, access to loans, and increased trade. 
     With renewed diplomatic relations, trade, modern factories, 
     and jobs soon followed. Companies such as Coke, IBM, General 
     Electric and ExXon to name a view invested in new plants 
     providing much needed jobs to a poor country. Vietnamese 
     cooperation continues today and relationships continue to 
     improve. Just recently President Donald Trump hosted the 
     Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the White House 
     to chart an agenda for U.S.-Vietnam relations, building on 
     the positive momentum of the comprehensive partnership 
     between the two countries. Over the years, one thing a 
     remained constant, providing the fullest possible accounting 
     for the POW/MIAs. It remains the U.S.'s highest priority when 
     dealing with Vietnam. Even today, recovery teams operate with 
     the Vietnamese across the countryside. The compromises that 
     took place in the 1990s led to cooperation and trust between 
     two former enemies to the benefit of both countries.

                          ____________________