Vietnamese Leader Begins U.S. Visit

Associated Press
Monday, June 20, 2005

SEATTLE, June 19 -- Phan Van Khai, the first Vietnamese prime minister to visit the United States since the end of the war 30 years ago, called on Vietnamese emigres to help strengthen ties between the two countries as he began a weeklong tour aimed at improving relations with Washington.

"It is our government's consistent policy to consider the Vietnamese community living abroad as an important and integral part of our nation and our resources," Khai said Sunday.

Demonstrators shouted "Down with communists" and called for an end to political and religious persecution in Vietnam. Some held signs that read, "Khai is another Saddam Hussein."

Khai, 71, arrived Sunday morning and stopped first at Boeing's plant in Renton, south of Seattle, to oversee the purchase of four 787 airliners by Vietnam Airlines. On Monday, he is to visit Microsoft, and he will meet with President Bush on Tuesday.

Khai said during a news conference that Vietnam will continue working with the United States to strengthen its economy. Khai seeks Bush's help in gaining Vietnam's admittance to the World Trade Organization. In the 10 years since diplomatic ties were restored, the United States has become Vietnam's top trading partner. The two-way trade was worth $6.4 billion last year.

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