Vietnam today condemned Sen. John McCain's use of the word "gooks" to refer to his Vietnam War captors, saying the slur is hurtful and unworthy of someone running for the U.S. presidency.

"The fact Mr. John McCain uses such words and makes such statements that lack goodwill have hurt Vietnamese and Asian people," Hanoi's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Phan Thuy Thanh, said in response to questions. "This statement is not worthy of a U.S. senator, especially one running for the U.S. presidency. This obviously does not bring credit to him individually nor benefit U.S. foreign policy."

McCain, an Arizona Republican, refused last week to apologize for his use of the slur to condemn North Vietnamese prison guards, who, he said, tortured him in captivity during the Vietnam War.

"If anybody doesn't believe that these interrogators and these prison guards who tortured me and my friends were not cruel and sadistic people that deserve the appellation gook. . . . There's no appellation that could be bad enough," McCain told reporters on his campaign bus Thursday.

"I will continue to refer to them probably in language that might offend some people here. . . . I hated the gooks and will continue to hate them as long as I live," said McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi.

The Hanoi spokeswoman said the Vietnamese people suffered "many crimes and much sorrow" as a result of U.S. aggression during the war.

But she said Hanoi's policy is to be friends with all countries and in the case of former enemies to "set aside the past and look forward to the future and cooperate for mutual development," adding: "We think the U.S. side understands this point."

McCain was shot down on a bombing mission over what was then North Vietnam in 1967. A North Vietnamese militiaman saved him from drowning in a Hanoi lake and then from angry civilians who wanted to kill him.

Despite his treatment in captivity, McCain has advocated reconciliation between the United States and Vietnam. He made several trips to the country in the 1990s and was a key force behind the normalization of diplomatic ties in 1995.