Vietnam, U.S. to Improve Intelligence, Military Ties

SLUG: vietnam  INPUTDATE: 2005-06-16 15:22:27.890  CREDIT: Ellen Nakashima/STAFF/TWP LOCATION: hanoi, , vietnam CAPTION: Prime Minister Phan Van Khai discusses his historic trip to the United States next week Sent by: Ellen Nakashima  Photo Editor:
SLUG: vietnam INPUTDATE: 2005-06-16 15:22:27.890 CREDIT: Ellen Nakashima/STAFF/TWP LOCATION: hanoi, , vietnam CAPTION: Prime Minister Phan Van Khai discusses his historic trip to the United States next week Sent by: Ellen Nakashima Photo Editor: (Ellen Nakashima - Twp)

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By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, June 17, 2005

HANOI, June 16 -- Once enemies in battle, Vietnam and the United States will cooperate in the exchange of intelligence on terrorism and transnational crime, and Vietnam will send military officers for training in the United States, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said Thursday on the eve of the first U.S. trip by a top Vietnamese Communist leader.

The intelligence and military cooperation agreements will be announced when Khai visits next week, marking the highest-level visit to the United States since the Communists won the war in 1975. He will meet with President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday.

The move to forge solid military ties between Vietnam and the United States shows how far the relationship has advanced in the 10 years since President Bill Clinton established formal diplomatic relations. The trip will be a milestone, analysts said, a signal that a mature relationship based on mutual interests in security and trade is beginning to take shape.

"During the war, Vietnam and the United States were opponents," Khai said during a 75-minute interview at his office in the capital, which is within walking distance of the mausoleum holding the embalmed body of Ho Chi Minh, the independence leader and North Vietnamese president during the war. "Now that 30 years have elapsed since the end of the war, it is our policy to put aside the past and look to the future and a better relationship between the two countries."

Khai, an economic modernizer, will meet Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft Corp., and ring the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. He will also face questions about Vietnam's human rights record. Congressional leaders and leaders in the Vietnamese American community are pressing Vietnam to allow greater religious and political freedom.

One of Khai's goals is to persuade Bush to declare his support for Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Organization, which would allow Vietnam to compete on more even footing in a region nervously eyeing China's growing economic power.

Khai's trip is part of a wider effort by Vietnam to establish stronger relations globally, and analysts say the trip's success is crucial if economic reforms are to continue to flourish.

Khai also said he wanted to reach out to the sizable Vietnamese American community, saying, "They are an integral part of our nation and a very important resource for our country."

"Some stood on that side, some on the other side, even in one family" during the war, Khai said. "A lot of suffering has been put on the Vietnamese people. That's why we would like to put behind us the past and look forward to the future."

Khai, 71, was a member of Vietnam's revolutionary youth group in 1947, served as a government planner during the Vietnam War and was chosen prime minister by the country's Communist-governed National Assembly in 1997.

He said the intelligence agreement with the United States would extend to money-laundering and would entail the creation of positions to handle intelligence-sharing in the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi as well as in the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington.

"Terrorism has become a global threat," Khai said. "To eliminate terrorism . . . and to prevent it from causing catastrophic consequences to innocent people has become a pressing issue that requires joint efforts and cooperation of different countries. Vietnam is not an exception regarding this threat."


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