U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale arrived here today after a week-long trip to China, and turned his attention immediately to the problem of the Vietnamese "boat people" and the plight of Hong Kong's 67,000 refugees from Vietnam.
Mondale arrived here aboard a train coming from the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (Canton). Also arriving today in this British colony were an additional 233 persons swelling the ranks of the Vietnamese refugees already here.
Mondale met today with U.S. ambassadors from countries belonging to the five-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand -- and with representatives from 12 refugee assistance organizations.
Although no specific appeals were made to Mondale during the talks, the representatives from refugee relief agencies expressed hope that more Vietnamese "boat people" now in Hong Kong could be resettled overseas. Mondale reviewed the measures that the U.S. is taking to help the 360,000 Indochinese refugees who have fled to Hong Kong and other Southeast Asian countries, stressing the importance the U.S. attaches to the issue.
Whether the U.S. might be able to do more to alleviate the refugee problem in Hong Kong is a complex matter, since three-fourths of the Vietnamese refugees already resettled from Hong Kong have gone to the U.S., according to an official traveling with Mondale. The United States is committed to accepting 14,000 refugees each month from the region, he said, but Hong Kong is competing with Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines for the 14,000 spaces.
The United States is now committed to taking 2,000 refugees a month from Hong Kong. Over a twelve-month period the United States will accept 168,000 refugees overall from the region, the U.S. officials said, while the rest of the world, excluding the Chinese, will take between 110,000 and 115,000.
Angelo Rasanayagam, chief representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said that he discussed with the vice president what he described as the gap between the U.S. promise to resettle a certain number of refugees each month and the "realization of the promise." Mainly because of bureaucratic snags, only about 1,000 Vietnamese "boat people" left Hong Kong for the U.S. in August, 500 short of the original target for the month.
An official traveling with Mondale said that only 11,000 refugees from the region had been resettled in the United States but that he hoped Congress would approve appropriations so the target of 14,000 could be reached in September.
Before leaving Hong Kong early Monday morning for Tokyo, Mondale is scheduled to visit a refugee camp, have lunch with Hong Kong's governor, Sir Murray Maclehose, and visit the USS Midway, one of three U.S. aircraft carriers operating in the western Pacific that have joined other 7th Fleet ships on the alert for refugee boats.