US Defense Secretary's visit to Vietnam

Hanoi, Mar. 13 (VNA) -- Defense Secretary of the United States William Cohen arrived in Hanoi this morning, March 13, beginning a three-day official visit to Vietnam which extends from March 13-15. He was accompanied by other senior officers and US Ambassador to Vietnam Douglas Peterson.

He was welcomed at the Defence Ministry's Guest House by Vietnamese Defence Minister Sen. Lieut. Gen. Pham Van Tra, Deputy Defence Minister Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Huy Hieu, and other senior officers. Right after the welcoming ceremony, Pham Van Tra and William Cohen held talks.

* Prime Minister Phan Van Khai receives US Defense Secretary:

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai received US Defense Secretary William Cohen in Hanoi on Mar. 13.

PM Khai welcomed the Vietnam visit by Defense Secretary Cohen and other US officers. He spoke of the positive contributions made by Vietnam and the U.S. in searching for remains of U.S. servicemen listed as missing in action in the US war in Vietnam. He said that so far hundreds of thousands of families in Vietnam have not yet found the remains of their relatives who fell in the war and millions of people have been affected by Agent Orange sprayed by US aircraft during the war. As a result, said Khai, many families have three to four children born with deformities. The Vietnamese Government has decided to grant allowances to these Agent Orange victims, he said.

In the spirit of closing the past and looking to the future, he said he hopes that the US will join Vietnam in humanitarian efforts to overcome war consequences.

PM Khai briefed the US Defense Secretary of Vietnam's socio-economic situation and external policy. He said he hoped that during his visit the US Defense Secretary would better understand Vietnam's economy and help the US Government make right decisions in line with the two countries' relations and international relations.

PM Khai asked Secretary Cohen to convey his regards to President Bill Clinton.

US Defense Secretary Cohen thanked PM Khai for his reception. He spoke highly of the positive cooperation and assistance given by the Vietnamese Government in searching for remains of US MIA's from the war. He said that over the past five years, the two countries' relations have been improving step by step. He said he hoped that after his visit, the two countries' relations would be developed, especially in economic and commercial fields.

Vietnamese Deputy Defence Minister Lieut. Gen. Nguyen Huy Hieu was present at the reception.

Cohen and his entourage also visited an excavation site for US servicemen's remains in Dong Phu commune, Chuong My district, Ha Tay province.

Minister of Defense Pham Van Tra offered a banquet in honour of US Secretary Cohen this evening.

* President Tran Duc Luong receives US Defence Secretary:

President Tran Duc Luong received US Defense Secretary, William Cohen, in Hanoi on March 14.

Mr. Cohen expressed his elation at visiting Vietnam and witnessing the country