US President W.J. Clinton pays official visit to Vietnam

President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America arrives in Ha Noi this evening, Nov. 16, at (Hanoi time) beginning an official visit to Viet Nam from Nov. 16-19.

The visit is made at the invitation of President Tran Duc Luong.

The US President is accompanied by his spouse Hillary Clinton, his daughter Chelsea Clinton and his mother-in-law Dorothy Rodham.

U.S. Ambassador to Viet Nam Douglas "Pete" Peterson, Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta, Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky, Chief of Staff for White House Operations John Podesta, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs Hershel Gober, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Samuel Berger, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling are members of the President's entourage

Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong held talks with visiting US President William Jefferson Clinton on Nov. 17 right after the State welcome ceremony.

On behalf of the State and people of Viet Nam, President Tran Duc Luong welcomed the first visit to independent and unified Viet Nam by President Clinton, his wife and entourage, describing it as a new step of development in the process of improving the relations between the two countries.

He expressed his hope that the visit would mark a new stage in the relationship between the two countries -- the long-lasting friendship and cooperation based on the principles of respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and terrirorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, no detriment to each other's relations with any third countries, and contribution to consolidating peace, security and stability in Southeast Asia, Asia and the Pacific and the world.

President Luong briefed President Clinton of Viet Nam's great achievements in 14 years of the renovation process, saying that Viet Nam, emerging from socio-economic crisis and rice import in the late 80's, has become the world's second rice exporter and registered an average annual economic growth rate of over 7 percent in the 90's. The country has also recorded achievements in solving social issues such as hunger eradication and poverty reduction, education and health care.

President Luong renewed Viet Nam's foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, multilateralization and diversification of international realtions as well as its orientation to be friend and trusted partner with all countries in the world. "Viet Nam prioritizes developing relations with neighbouring, traditional and major countries," the President elaborated.

On relations between Viet Nam and the U.S., the President expressed satisfaction at improvements in the two countries' relations over the past eight years, particularly the establishment of diplomatic relations in July 1995 and the signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in July, 2000, saying these developments suited the benefits and aspirations of both peoples. He appreciated President Clinton's role in and his contributions to normalising the two countries' relations.

He stressed that to look forward to the future, the two countries could not avoid looking back the past. The war had left extremely heavy consequences on Viet Nam. The Vietnamese people held that the U.S. Government should acknowledge the responsibility towards the great losses that the Vietnamese people had suffered. Immediately, the U.S. side should pay due attention and respond, in an appropriate manner, to Viet Nam's humanitarian issues, cooperating in the search for information relating to Vietnamese people reported missing, demining and neutralizing unexploded bombs and ordnance, detoxifying former military bases and providing necessary assistance to Agent Orange victims and other humanitarian issues left over by the war.

He reiterated Viet Nam's unchanged stance to consider seeking information on American servicemen missing in action (MIA) in the war as a humanitarian issue and Viet Nam's pledge to continue to cooperate with the U.S. side in this issue.

President W.J. Clinton expressed thanks to the Vietnamese State and people for their ceremonial welcome given to him and his family and delegation. He also expressed gratitude to the Vietnamese Government and people for having assisted the U.S. side in seeking information on American servicemen missing in action in the war. He held that what had been achieved in the U.S.-Vietnam relations would serve as basis for further expansion of the two countries' ties, particularly in economy and commerce.

The U.S. President said that the two countries should quickly ratify the BTA signed in July this year and announced that the U.S. would grant Viet Nam USD 2 million in technical assistance each year over the next three years to help it implement the agreement. He also reaffirmed U.S. support for Viet Nam's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

He promised to consider increases in assistance to Viet Nam in demining unexploded bombs and ordnance left over by the war and stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation in the research on impacts of Agent Orange on the nature and people of Viet Nam as well as U.S. servicemen involved in the Viet Nam war.

President Clinton handed over to President Luong computer disks containing 360,000 pages of documents which, according to the U.S. side, would be helpful for the search for information on Vietnamese people missing in the war. He promised to provide other documents containing information on the sites where the U.S. forces had stored toxic chemicals during the war.--