U.S. officials believe Vietnam is holding remains of American servicemen in storage and releasing a few at a time for political purposes.
"We have the impression. . . that there is a process, if you like, of doling out information and remains," Assistant Secretary of State Richard H. Solomon told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee Thursday. He said U.S. officials believe Vietnam has much more information than it has released that could account for many of the 2,302 Americans still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Rear Adm. Ronald Marryout, deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said a decade-old story that remains of hundreds of U.S. servicemen were in storage in a warehouse after the Vietnam War had been independently verified.
Marryout said a Vietnamese mortician said more than 10 years ago that he prepared more than 260 remains of U.S. pilots and soldiers for storage after the war and estimated that he had seen remains of more than 400 Americans. "His information has been independently verified," Marryout said.
But the two officials said there is no compelling evidence that any Americans are being held captive in Vietnam although persistent reports of prisoners are still being investigated.
Marryout said U.S. officials are investigating 46 reports of American prisoners, although he said most of the reports, primarily from refugees, were more than 10 years old. He said four reports in the past two years held that Americans were being held prisoner in Vietnam.
"As yet, no single report or combination of reports provides compelling evidence to prove that U.S. prisoners remain in Southeast Asia," Marryout said.
The DIA official also said there is no evidence that any Americans are still being held prisoner from the Korean War in the 1950s.
"North Korea has been under the U.S. and allied intelligence microscope for nearly 40 years," he said. "Such scrutiny would certainly have turned up evidence of American prisoners of war in North Korea if they existed."