VN, US target stronger defence cooperation

(VNA) Vietnam and the US agreed upon a number of measures to lift bilateral defence cooperation to a new level, said Minister of Defence General Phung Quang Thanh.

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) following his official visit to the US from Dec. 10-15, Minister Thanh said he held frank, open and constructive talks with his US counterpart Robert Gates.

Defence ties form part of the Vietnam-US bilateral relationship and do not affect any third country, the minister elaborated.

Regarding cooperation directions in the years to come, Thanh said the two countries will give priority to a range of areas, including the clearance of bombs and mines left from the war and the search for their soldiers missing in action (MIA).

“During the trip, we handed over to the US officials documents which specify 13 locations where joint excavations will be conducted in order to shorten the duration of the programme to search US MIA soldiers in Vietnam ,” he said.

The minister added that the US also pledged to cooperate with Vietnam in decontaminating Agent Orange/dioxin and providing information related to areas where the US troops once stored and sprayed toxic chemicals.

Thanh went on to say that he also met with Senator James Webb, Senator John McCain, and National Security Advisor General James Johns, and First Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg.

At these meetings, the two sides discussed issues, including differences in the perception of democracy and human rights, and agreed to increase mutual understanding through dialogue mechanisms.

The minister stressed that the visit reaffirmed Vietnam ’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralisation and diversification, thus contributing to the normalisation of Vietnam-US relations and promotion of bilateral economic ties./.