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Vietnam to dig into archives to help find US war missing
HANOI, June 16 (AFP) - Vietnam is to start sifting through classified documents relating to its war with the United States to help in the search for American soldiers still listed as missing in action, officials said Wednesday.
The move follows a visit to Vietnam by Jerry Jennings, the deputy assistant secretary of state in charge of prisoners of war and those missing in action. "The two parties agreed on a cooperation research program on MIAs' files in Vietnamese archives," a Vietnamese diplomat in the capital Hanoi said, asking not to be identified.
"It will start in August. The research will be done exclusively by Vietnamese officials. The Americans won't have any direct access," he added.
A Vietnamese army officer told AFP that allowing the American military direct access to the Vietnamese archives was out of the question.
"It would be like letting someone look into your wardrobe in your room," he said, adding however that cooperation between the two countries on the matter had been very constructive for both sides.
No US official was immediately available for comment.
In September last year, Vietnam said it would found a study team to review defence ministry archives following a US request made in June.
"I have sought assurances from the government of Vietnam for greater unilateral efforts on their part to help us resolve the fate of the nearly
1,900 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War," Jennings said at the time.
"I also advocated greater access to archival materials and increased participation in a program to interview senior wartime leaders who may have information about our missing."
US-Vietnam military relations have failed to take off almost thirty years after the end of the war, due to mental scars and mutual suspicion. But cooperation in the search for those missing in action (MIA) has seen significant progress.
Vietnam and the United States have cooperated since 1986 to determine the fate of the missing from a conflict that claimed more than 58,000 US and an estimated three million Vietnamese lives.
Around 300,000 Vietnamese are also still listed as missing. "The US delegation gave us new information about Vietnamese MIAs recently collected from American veterans and officials," the diplomat added without elaborating.
More than three million Americans served in Vietnam during the war, which spanned most of the 1960s and continued until the fall of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City, in 1975.
BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific Wednesday, June 16, 2004
-- Nong Bi' Dai" (VietnancongSans@yahoo.com), August 08, 2004
NEWS RELEASE from the United States Department of Defense
No. 586-04 IMMEDIATE RELEASE Jun 18, 2004 Media Contact: (703)697-5131 Public/Industry Contact: (703)428-0711
Breakthrough Announced in POW/MIA Accounting
The senior U.S. official responsible for policy oversight of accounting for American POWs and MIAs concluded three days of talks Thursday in Vietnam, marked by what he termed "clear and concrete positive steps" from SRV government officials.
Jerry D. Jennings, deputy assistant secretary of defense for POW/MIA affairs, arrived in Vietnam Sunday for a series of discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister, as well as with senior officials in the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, National Defense, and Public Security. According to Jennings, "I'm very pleased at the outcome of our discussions here. This commitment from the highest levels of the Vietnamese government offers us the opportunity to achieve significant results."
Jennings cited specifically the positive outcome of discussions to gain access to Vietnamese national archives, with the central focus on the Ministry of National Defense. Vietnamese archivists will be permitted to pursue POW/MIA leads wherever the information may take them. This is the first joint archival search effort publicly endorsed at the level of the deputy prime minister.
In another significant breakthrough, the Vice Minister of Public Security, Nguyen Van Huong, granted a request from Jennings to visit the Central Highlands, an area to which access had been denied for POW/MIA activities for nearly three years due to sporadic local unrest. His visit is expected to allow for the return to the area by U.S. investigation and recovery teams.
Jennings also cited good support in his interviews with senior Vietnamese wartime leaders, whose recollections may provide important POW/MIA information on wartime activities and policy to help the United States locate its missing servicemen.
He noted the Vietnamese agreed in principle to support underwater recovery operations. Currently an assessment of technical requirements is being conducted and when it is completed a decision will be made regarding what type of vessel and equipment would offer the best opportunities for success. He also welcomed Vietnam's support for the U.S.-hosted 2004 POW/MIA consultations with Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, which will take place in Cambodia in late July.
During the visit, Jennings turned over hundreds of documents from U.S. national archives containing information about Vietnamese soldiers who died during the war. "This is a mutual humanitarian effort," he said, "and we're committed to sharing information with Vietnam whenever we find it."
For additional information about POW/MIA recoveries, visit http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo [http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo] , or call the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office at (703) 699-1169.
[Web Version: http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2004/nr20040618- 0915.html]
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-- Nong Bi' Dai" (VietnancongSans@yahoo.com), August 08, 2004.