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Last Updated: Friday, 14 July 2006, 08:57 GMT 09:57 UK
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Two Vietnamese ladies sitting on the street
Four decades on, the trauma of the war between the US and Vietnam is beginning to fade and the two countries are undergoing a transformation in relations.

Julian Pettifer - who reported from Vietnam during the war - returned for BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents to examine the nature of the new friendship and find out how genuine it really is.

We asked for your comments on our programme and the issues that it raised. A selection of your comments are below. This debate is now closed.

I just listened to the really interesting Crossing Continents with Julian Pettifer on Vietnam. Very well done, very insightful. Thank you. But how could Mr Pettifer leave us hanging, not knowing if the former US GI managed to meet up with his former Vietnamese wife? Is there to be a part II? I do hope so. There are so many tragedies and individual stories related to this war, which have never or are only now being dealt with by those directly affected. The human interest side should be dealt with more. >
Rick Pinard


I recently travelled to Vietnam in the spring and noticed the resilient spirit of the Vietnamese people and their culture. I think it is trivial to continue regarding Vietnam as "the foe of the past". I believe in looking forward and developing new relationships between the two countries. No-one regards Germany and the UK as bitter enemies anymore, so why must we continuously see Vietnam as a past enemy? Let bygones be bygones.
Robin McGeough, Calgary, Canada

As a Vietnam vet I was drawn back to Vietnam in 1999 and since then Vietnam and its people have become a very important part of my life. I work with an NGO, East Meets West, in Danang, raising funds for various humanitarian projects. Also, I married in 2001 to a lovely Vietnamese lady. I plan to live there in the future.
Robert Schiffbaur, PA, US

We must overcome our differences for the benefit of future generations
Vicente Casiano, NY, US
The improvement in diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the US is a triumph of humanity. We must overcome our differences for the benefit of future generations. The next step is for the US is to develop a "sunshine" attitude towards Cuba as such action will benefit the Caribbean and Latin America as well.
Vicente Casiano, NY, US

It's time to move on. I want to be able to go to Vietnam as a tourist. I hope to visit the sites of a war which happened when I was not on this earth and listen to the stories of those who survived it. I have never agreed with the idea that there are certain places that I as an American shouldn't go to. Vietnam seems very beautiful and interesting to me and I want to experience its culture, people, and food.
Stella, Virginia, US

It seems natural that the US and Vietnam would come closer together, much in the same way Japan and the US have become. However, my parents were refugees, both boat people, and having learned their perspective of the war and their lives as refugees, I still have guarded feelings about the newfound relationship. Vietnam is still run by a Communist dictatorship that has no regard for human rights or rule of law. There is very little economic transparency and it increases the difficulty of conducting business and trade. The US must responsibly use its position to encourage positive change in Vietnam.
Robert Vu, San Francisco, CA, US

I am a US citizen and Vietnam veteran. It is about time that our two countries became friends. The war never should have happened. I reside in Thailand and it is a beautiful country but I think my first love will always be the central highlands around the city of Pleiku. May our futures see us grow together.
Ervin J Carroll, Thailand

The big question is will Vietnam successfully manage the rapprochement?
Ton Ngo Khong
This is certainly in both countries' interest. Not only does Vietnam seek to balance growing Chinese influence in the region (which it tried to do via ASEAN with little success), but the US is eager to access Vietnam's markets, deep water ports, and support the only country in the region that most recently fought, and won, against the Chinese (1979). The big question is: will Vietnam successfully manage the rapprochement? The US and EU talk about forgiving poor countries' debts, but at the same time they are forcing Vietnam to make painful concessions to join the WTO while protecting their own agricultural sectors.
Ton Ngo Khong

I recently returned from a six month stint as an English teacher in Ho Chi Minh City. The adult students I spoke to shared many of the same feelings as those expressed in this article. To them, the wars are nothing more than history. As an American whose father served in Vietnam, I received no animosity from the incredibly nice, sociable, and hard working people of Vietnam. However, I believe that a certain level of apathy has grown in the population. I saw the people of Vietnam to be apolitical and not interested in their revolutionary past. Personally, I attribute those sentiments to a government that has also forgotten its revolutionary roots, and perhaps the purpose of the wars against imperialism in which they so bravely fought, in order to appease the nations of the world, especially the US, and join the WTO. I am truly excited for Vietnam's future, but I wish the young people could be more attached to their past. I also agree that the Vietnamese deserve some retribution for the extensive damage that occurred during the war.
Andrew H, Chicago, US

I think this a great thing. World real estate is getting a little tight, we need to get along. Maybe we can even learn something from each other.

Let us not forget that this is about the containment of China
Rory Green, Aberdeen, Scotland
As Orwell points out in 1984, old enemies become allies. It is good the US and Vietnam are becoming friends on many levels. But let us not forget that this is about the containment of China.
Rory Green, Aberdeen, Scotland

I have another reminder of the improved and revitalized relationship between my country and Vietnam... a newly adopted cousin named Claire Xiao who arrived from Vietnam at age one.
Sharon Schafer, Pennsylvania, US

I think it's great to see how time has begun to change the attitude of both countries. I have experienced in the US changes in Vietnamese and American attitudes towards Amerasians (I am one myself). The Vietnamese have done much to contribute to society... food, culture, labour, and I am glad those in Vietnam have jumped on board.
David Araujo, Las Vegas

I found your story - as well as a lot of stories about the Vietnam war - one-sided. While the Communist government tries to embrace a US style of capitalism as a way to survive and close the past, they still treat us, the South Vietnamese overseas, as enemies. I can't forget my father's saddened eyes before he was sent to the North and died in one of many labour camps established after 1975.
Thanh Ng, Missouri

It's about time we started to give something back
P Stringer, Birmingham
A very moving set of stories. I too have a deep affection for SE Asia (Having a Thai wife and spending a lot of time there). I was moved to shed a tear at the very last story. Please follow up on this and tell us what happened to the soldier and his search for his wife. So many Westerners are regarded as "hit & run" merchants in that part of the world that it's refreshing to see people stand-up and want to face their responsibilities. SE Asian people are loving, generous, caring, and polite to such an extent it is deeply sad and embarrassing for me to live in Western society rife with gangs, gluttony and greed. Our society has been built largely upon the exploitation of this part of the world and its cheap labour - it's about time we started to give something back.
P Stringer, Birmingham

It's unfortunate that your correspondent did not search out the older Vietnamese who fought with the Americans against the communists, or those Vietcong who found themselves imprisoned by their former northern "brothers". While the current government of Vietnam likes to portray the "American War" as having been fought against foreigners, and has even gone so far as to raze all the South Vietnamese war cemeteries, the people of the former RVN still remember. I will never forget the elderly street vendor in Saigon in 1996, who asked me in clear English if I was American. She smiled when I replied that I was, and as I walked away, called out clearly, "Welcome back!"
Raymund Johansen, Kabul, Afghanistan

I am happy that the Vietnam war can be put to rest in the past, and a new era of relations is opening for the people of the US and the people of Vietnam. The one image that remains in my mind from that time, was that little girl walking down the road with her clothes burned off, injured and in pain. How God awful those times were. Thankfully, they are in the past.
Bruce Bartman, Las Vegas, US

What about the Aussies who fought? My 57-year-old Aussi brother was involved - he saw the devastation committed by the US when they went on killing sprees high on drugs. He and his platoon were almost wiped out, and to date, some of his friends have gone back to Vietnam to see how times have changed. My brother was wounded and still bears the scars today, but he has dealt with life, with that great Aussi humour and the government looks after the men who fought.
Diana Martin, Hayling Island, Hants

What a wonderful, uplifting story. After the horrors of war to see two such diverse cultures coming together gives hope to us all.
Mike, UK

When will America take responsibility for the massive environmental and humanitarian tragedy it caused by the use of chemical weapons?
Stephen Rowcliffe
I lived in Vietnam for two years and have only one question - when will America take responsibility for the massive environmental and humanitarian tragedy it caused by the use of chemical weapons such as agent orange against the rainforests, mangroves and rice fields of Vietnam which left several species extinct, huge areas of primary forest damaged and incidences of birth defects and cancer amongst the civilian population?
Stephen Rowcliffe

Wow some good news amongst all the bad! It's good to know that hatred doesn't last forever. However I can also see why Vietnam wants to have closer ties with the US and that's to balance out China's growing global influence. Very pragmatic.
David Lorier-May

The report doesn't seem to distinguish between those that fought with the Communists and those who fought with the US/South - Vietnam is very divided. The lingering antagonism is more likely to be targeted at the Communist National Government than at foreign participants during the war. Half of Vietnam fought against the current regime; they were certainly peeved when they lost in 1975, and for many, they still are (ask many of the refugees).
H Tran

Enforced poverty from embargo has lead to this so called "transformation". Of course the BBC glosses over the fact that Vietnam and its people are still exposed to the spraying of Agent Orange by the Americans on men, women, and children. The devastating effects of this you fail to mention in your piece. BBC once again consumed by market ideology perhaps?
H King

The issue deserves a more in depth examination
Fascinating programme about Vietnam but far too short. I did not appreciate the ending about the US soldier's search to find his wife. Whilst I appreciate the programme was not about this particular issue it left an unsatisfactory ending with a question mark hanging over his success or not. Otherwise well done, the issue deserves a more in depth examination, particularly given the links/parallels with the current US policy in Iraq.

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Crossing Continents


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