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The BBC's Simon Ingram in Vietnam
"Productive talks"
 real 28k

BBC Vietnamese Section's Houng Lee
"The United States want to replace Russia in the military context with Vietnam"
 real 28k

Monday, 13 March, 2000, 17:53 GMT
Cohen seeks details of war dead
Cohen meets Vietnamese
Cohen is greeted to Hanoi with full military honours
United States Defence Secretary William Cohen has been meeting senior Vietnamese leaders on the first day of a visit that coincides with the 25th aniversary of the Vietnam war.

Mr Cohen says his aim during the three-day visit - the first by an American defence chief since the war - is to put in place the foundations for closer military ties.

He and Vietnam's Defence Minister Pham Van Tra discussed the removal of mines and joint research into the effects of exposure to Agent Orange, the toxic herbicide used by the United States during the Vietnam War.

Crash site
Cohen visits the crash site of a US fighter plane
Vietnam estimates that one million of its people are victims of Agent Orange, which was sprayed over wide areas of central and southern Vietnam between 1962 and 1971 to destroy cover for North Vietnamese forces.

Mr Cohen, who was welcomed to Hanoi with military honours, described the talks with his counterpart as "very warm" and "productive."

Their discussions also included the issue of missing American servicemen. Mr Cohen made it clear that this was Washington's main concern.

Search for the missing

Mr Cohen was taken to a crash site south of Hanoi, where US and Vietnamese specialists are searching for the remains of an American fighter pilot whose plane crashed in the area in 1967.

Accounting for the 2,029 Americans still missing from the war remains "paramount for us," Cohen told reporters at the site.

Mr Cohen has said he does not intend to apologise for a conflict which left both countries scarred.

Instead, he says his aim is to discuss future co-operation, like the provision of humanitarian aid and joint work on removing mines left over from the war.

"All of that will be part of a maturing relationship in our overall bilateral relationship that we hope to establish and build upon," he said.


The Vietnam war memorial
The Vietnam war memorial in Washington names US soldiers lost in action
BBC South-east Asia correspondent Simon Ingram says a quarter of a century after North Vietnam secured victory over the US-backed regime in south Vietnam, the long and costly conflict still casts a dark shadow over relations between Hanoi and Washington.

In its step by step relationship with Vietnam, Mr Cohen said the US would consider a port call by US navy ships to Vietnam at some time in the future.

As part of his visit, Mr Cohen will fly to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly South Vietnamese capital Saigon, now the economic engine and largest city of Communist Vietnam.

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See also:

06 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Albright talks trade in Vietnam
16 Aug 99 | Asia-Pacific
US consulate opens in Vietnam
28 Aug 98 | Asia-Pacific
Vietnamese amnesty frees 5,000
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