U.S.-Vietnam Relationship the Product of Hardwork, said US Ambassador to Vietnam

Diep Nguyen

Our predecessors set aside their differences, acknowledged their history, and vowed to move forward as friends instead of foes.  Veterans, families on both sides were among the first to face the past and start building the bridges that allowed our governments to successfully engage.

U.S.-Vietnam Relationship the Product of Hardwork, said US Ambassador to Vietnam
US ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink - Photo: Tuoi Tre Newspaper
This year marks a special year in the US – Vietnam diplomatic relation. 25 years have passed since January 28, 1995 when the United States and Vietnam sign agreements settling property claims and establishing liaison offices in each other’s capitals and since July 11, 1995 – President William J. Clinton announces “normalization of relations” with Vietnam. 
In the past 25 years, US and Vietnam jointly have made great strides in enhancing the diplomatic, economic, political and social relations. On this occasion, BizLIVE runs a series of articles to mark this event, to start with this series, US ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink had one op-ed. Following is the full article:
“In 1995, when President Bill Clinton announced the normalization of U.S. diplomatic relations with Vietnam, our two countries had nearly no trade and very limited people-to-people connections.Today, our nations are trusted partners with a friendship grounded in mutual respect.Looking at all we have achieved together, the progress of the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship over the past 25 years has been no less than extraordinary.  
Our predecessors set aside their differences, acknowledged their history, and vowed to move forward as friends instead of foes.  Veterans and families on both sides were among the first to face the past and start building the bridges that allowed our governments to successfully engage. Americans and Vietnamese began working together to address humanitarian issues and the legacies of waryears before the normalization of relations.
Since 1988, American and Vietnamese teams have partnered to recover our fallen soldiers, and in 1991, the United States Office for Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Affairsopened in Hanoi. Under President George H.W. Bush, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)began providing assistance topersons with disabilities in Vietnamusing the Leahy War Victims Fund.Starting in 1993, the United States and Vietnam have worked together to help rid Vietnam of the scourge of unexploded ordnance (UXO). 
The first steps our two nations took together set the stage for the formal establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of our two embassies in Washingtonand Hanoi in 1995.Then, in 1997, the U.S. Senate confirmed Douglas “Pete” Peterson as the first U.S. Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  
Ambassador Peterson,who served as a U.S. Air Force pilot during thewar in Vietnam and spent over six years as a prisoner of war,devoted his tenure to reconciliation and building a lasting relationship between Vietnam and the United States.  He said, “I want to heal the wounds between the United States and Vietnam. 
It’s a tragic history that we’ve shared as two peoples. No one can change that, but there is a great deal we can all do about the future. And that’s why I’m in Vietnam.”Ambassador Peterson was not alone in believing he could do a “great deal about the future” of U.S.-Vietnam relations.
Important figures in our two governments,including the late Senator John McCain, Senator Patrick Leahy, former Secretary of StateJohn Kerry, Ambassador Le Van Bang, late Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach,and Former Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam, and many others promoted a shared future of trust, peace, and prosperity. 
Today, in areas as diverse as trade, development, education, health care, energy, and security, the United States and a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam are working together with a shared commitment to peace and prosperity.  
As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “in the past, we were opponents on the battlefield. But today, our security relationship is all about cooperation.” That cooperation happens at every level, from high-level visits by the Secretary of Defense to the men and women serving in our militaries.
As an example, over the last two years, the U.S. Coast Guard delivered 18 boats and a 3000-tonne, 115-meter cutter to the Vietnamese Coast Guard, with U.S. Coast Guard personnel joining the Vietnamese crew for the sail home.  
During his November 2019 visit to Hanoi, Defense Secretary Mark Esper agreed to expand this program by transferring a second Coast Guard cutter in 2020.  Also last year, two Vietnamese pilots trained alongside American officers in the U.S. Air Force Aviation Leadership Program.  
And, last summer, members of the U.S. military, working with their Vietnamese counterparts, delivered humanitarian assistance and hosted cultural exchanges as part of Pacific Partnership 2019 in the south-central province of Phu Yen.  We look forward to repeating this event in 2020.  Our cooperation continues to grow in other important areas, including peacekeeping, de-mining, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, law enforcement, and criminal justice system reform.
Everyday, American and Vietnamese business leadersdevelopstrong trade tiesenabling their commercial partnerships to prosper. We have gone from almost no trade 26 years ago to over$65 billionin two-way trade today. Major U.S. firms have invested both in Vietnam’s manufacturing sector and in its infrastructure, and we expect their investment in energy and other infrastructure to continue and even accelerate under our Indo-Pacific Economic Vision.  
Together, entrepreneurs from our two countries continue to innovate and thrive. I believe our collaborative work to ensure the free and fair flow of goods and investment between our two countries will result in mutual prosperity.And we are committed not just to economic growth, but to sustainable development.  
To accomplish this, we partner with Vietnam to protect and preserve its natural resources – working together we are investing in sustainable forestry management; combating illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing and illegal wildlife trafficking; and improving air and water quality.
Investing in our future partnership means providing opportunities forour youth to start building lasting ties of friendship.Right now, nearly 30,000 young Vietnamese are studying in the Unites States, and under the Fulbright program, the U.S. Embassy sponsors 19 young Americans to teach English in communities throughout Vietnam.Educational exchanges can be one of the most fulfilling ways to develop cross-cultural understanding and friendships because of the ties built with classmates, professors, and host families.  
I urge American students to seek educational exchanges to Vietnam and Vietnamese students to look for educational opportunities in the United States.  You don’t even need to fly across the Pacific Ocean tohelpbuild these educational and cultural ties.  Join one of our many hundreds of cultural and educational events hosted year-round at our American Centers in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City!
Returning again to those activities that helped form the foundation of this relationship, I should recognize all that we have achieved together to address humanitarian and legacy-of-war issues. Since 1988, 727 missing U.S. personnel from the war have been accounted for thanks to the work of American and Vietnamese teamspartnering to recover our fallen soldiers.  Since 1989, the United States has provided over $100 million to provide assistance to persons with disabilities in Vietnam, helping millions of Vietnamese in need.
And since 1993, the United States has contributedover $120 million to help Vietnam remove UXOs. Our partnership with the government of Vietnam on this front has been so successful that in the past two yearsthere have been no UXO-related injuries in the U.S. government-supported province of Quang Tri.  In 2018, USAID successfully completed a $110 million dioxin remediation project at Danang Airport, and last year we began dioxin remediation at Bien Hoa Airbase, the final major dioxin hotspot in Vietnam.
Looking back at how much the United States and Vietnam have achieved together over the past 25 years, and even before 1995, it is clear that this year our two nations have much to celebrate. Yet, I think it is important to recognize that our work is not over.  
When I hear people call the U.S.-Vietnam relationship a miracle, I reflect on what Ambassador Peterson once told me: while our progress is remarkable, it is not an accident.  Everything we have achieved has been built on the courage, goodwill, and painstaking work of those who came before us.  The strong Comprehensive Partnership that we share today is the result of countless actions and decades of sincere dedication by individuals from both our countries.  
We all have a responsibility to continue building the ties of trust and friendship that ground our relationship, from security cooperation to business and people-to-people ties.  I look forward to continuing to advance our bilateral relationship in 2020, and to the next 25 years of our partnership.”