Party General Secretary receives President Clinton

Ha Noi, Nov. 18 (VNA) - General Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam Le Kha Phieu received U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton, who is on a four-day official visit to Viet Nam, in Ha Noi afternoon, Nov. 18.

Speaking to the General Secretary, President Clinton expressed thanks to the Government and people of Viet Nam for their efforts in searching for U.S. servicemen missing in action during the war, saying the U.S. Government and people were concerned about this issue. He held that the two countries' relations had seen positive development over the past eight years and that the normalisation process was nearly complete.

The U.S. President said the U.S. had provided and would continue providing information to help in the search for Vietnamese soldiers who died in the war.

He informed the Party leader of the contents of his talks with President Tran Duc Luong and his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, and expressed the desire to further strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation with the aim of boosting relations between the U.S. and Viet Nam. He hoped for early ratification of the U.S.-Viet Nam Bilateral Trade Agreement in order to facilitate the two countries' economic and commercial ties.

President Clinton expressed his pleasure at the fact that the two Governments had agreed to conduct high-level dialogues on economic cooperation, and said he hoped the dialogues would be conducted regularly to promote bilateral cooperation. He said he was glad the U.S. had granted relief to flood victims in central and southern Viet Nam and announced that the U.S. would together with the United Nations set up a forecasting centre in central Viet Nam to help the country mitigate natural disasters.

The U.S. President reaffirmed that the U.S. would continue seeking to heal the wounds of war. Describing the contents of his talks with President Tran Duc Luong and his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, President Clinton said both sides had discussed in detail the U.S. plan to neutralise unexploded ordnance and settle the Agent Orange issue. He shared the view with General Secretary Phieu that the U.S. should take responsibility in settling the worldwide development gap, with the latest action taken by the U.S. being its initiative to reduce debts for poor countries and provide financial support to the fight against malaria, child tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu welcomed the visit by President W.J. Clinton, his wife and delegation. He said he had been informed of the President's talks with President Tran Duc Luong, his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and his talk at the Ha Noi National University. Phieu concluded that each country, each nation had its own history, traditions and cultural identity, adding that Viet Nam was proud of its thousands years of culture.

The Party leader said he agreed with the U.S. President that the past could not be forgotten nor changed, and the question was to properly understand the nature of the past and particularly the anti-aggression resistance war which the Vietnamese people had to fight. Viet Nam waged the resistance war to end the country's occupation by imperialists. But why did the U.S. forces invade Viet Nam which did not seek invade the U.S. ?

The resistance wars had brought the Vietnamese people national independence and reunification to advance the country toward socialism, the Party leader said, so for the Vietnamese people the war was not ultimately a story of darkness, sadness and unhappiness.

Nevertheless, the recent war had heavy consequences for the people and country of Viet Nam, Phieu said. It was important, therefore, that responsible people should prevent the past from recurring. To Viet Nam, the past is the roots, the ground and the strength of the present and future.

General Secretary Phieu added that Viet Nam could not gain independence for the divided country by peaceful means, and therefore had to take up arms to win back independence. Viet Nam has long been one, the Vietnamese nation has long been one, and the people in the U.S. and the world had supported its people's just resistance struggle, Phieu said. Hence, both sides should learn from the past and take responsibility for it.

In regard to Doi Moi, Party General Secretary Phieu said the process was aimed at furthering national independence and socialism. He expressed thanks to the international community for their cooperation and assistance.

"The Doi Moi goal is to achieve an independent, socialist-oriented economy. That is a multi-sectoral economy where the State sector plays the key role," said the Party leader.

He made it clear that Viet Nam has room for a private economy, but is not privatizing the economy. Cooperatives have been re-organized, he said, not dissolved.

In the current economy, the State and cooperative sectors play a primary role. In more than 30 years of war and 19 years under embargo, which had posed numerous difficulties and challenges, socialism in Viet Nam had persisted and developed and would certainly further develop, stressed the Party leader, adding that he made the same statement during his visits to France, Italy and the European Union.

"The U.S. Secretary of State the other day asked me whether socialism would continue to exist; I replied that socialism would not only exist but further develop," Phieu said.

In regard to external policies, the Party General Secretary reaffirmed Viet Nam's policy of extending the hand of friendship to all nations the world over for peace, independence, friendship and development, equal cooperation and mutual interest.

He stressed that Viet Nam pursued an external policy of independence, self-determination, and diverse and multilateral ties. He cited the signing of the Viet Nam-U.S. Trade Agreement as a proof of the policy. Also under the policy, Viet Nam has established diplomatic relations with nearly 170 nations and commercial ties with more than 150 countries. At the same time, the Communist Party of Viet Nam has set up relations with more than 180 communist, left-wing and ruling parties. In the current global environment, every government and every nation all need to expand cooperation for mutual development.

"We respect the choice of lifestyle and political system by other nations. We, in return, ask for other nations to respect our people's choices. The fact that nations have different political systems does not prevent cooperation for mutual development, if they know how to respect each other's national independence and sovereignty, and not to intervene into the other's internal affairs," stressed the Party leader.

"It's certain that the 21st century will be defined by technology and science. But it also means a larger gap between rich and poor nations. The total property possessed by more than 300 billionaires the world over is equal to the incomes of more than 2 billion people in poor countries," said Mr.Phieu.

"The future of the Vietnamese nation is independence and socialism," stressed the Party leader, adding that he hoped relations between the two countries would further develop without any repeat of the past.

"Chelsea reminded me of Emily, daughter of Morison who had accompanied her mother in a visit to Viet Nam. They made a very nice symbol of the friendship between the two peoples," said Mr. Phieu.--VNA