Report of the
Senate Select Committee
GAUGING COOPERATION OF GOVERNMENTS IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
It is not possible to account for the Americans who are missing
from the war in Southeast Asia without cooperation from the
governments of the region, especially Vietnam. Over the years, our
government has requested this cooperation in four forms.
. First, we have requested all information about live American
prisoners, former prisoners or deserters.
. Second, we have asked for the return of any recovered or
recoverable remains of missing American servicemen.
. Third, we have sought access to files, records, documents and
other materials that are relevant to the fates of missing
. Finally, we have asked for permission to visit certain
locations within these countries to investigate live-sighting
reports and search for actual or suspected airplane crash
The U.S. has long believed that Vietnam knows a great deal more
about the fate of missing Americans than they have acknowledged.
This view was based on our belief that the North Vietnamese
maintained detailed records of U.S. servicemen who came within
their prison system during the war, including many lost in North
Vietnamese-controlled areas of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced, moreover, that the
Government of Vietnam at one time recovered and stored an unknown
quantity of remains of American servicemen, apparently for release
at politically strategic points in time.
The level of U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation in accounting for missing
Americans has varied over the years depending on bilateral and
global political conditions and on the degree of emphasis placed on
the issue by U.S. officials. At the time the Select Committee was
created, there was considerable progress being made in the
investigation of discrepancy cases, and an agreement had been
reached with Vietnam to allow an official DoD investigating
presence to be established in Hanoi.
Over the past year, Committee members have visited Vietnam on four
occasions to press for further cooperation. Those visits, coupled
with ongoing efforts from the Executive branch, have yielded
substantial results. Below is a discussion of the evolution of
U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation on the issue, from the end of the war
to the present.
From Operation Homecoming until 1982
Article 8 of the Paris Peace Accords required the exchange of
prisoners of war, the exchange of information about the missing in
action and the return of all the recoverable remains of those
missing men or prisoners who had died. Although the agreement did
not extend technically to Cambodia or Laos, the U.S. negotiators
were assured that North Vietnam would cooperate in efforts to
repatriate American prisoners captured in Laos.
As described elsewhere in this report, the atmosphere of
reconciliation produced by the peace agreement did not last long.
The North Vietnamese continued to funnel arms to their allies in
the south; the U.S. continued to bomb Cambodia and, at times,
Laos; the South Vietnamese did not cooperate in releasing civilian
prisoners; and the Viet Cong continued doing all it could to
increase its military and political strength. Amidst this
atmosphere of contention and accusation, efforts to account for
Americans missing in North Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia did not get
off the ground.
A total of 591 American prisoners were repatriated in Operation
Homecoming, a lower-than-anticipated number that disappointed the
nation. U.S. officials had hoped for the return of more than 80
others who were listed by the DIA as prisoners of war, and at least
some of the many hundreds who were listed as missing in action.
From the end of Operation Homecoming to the fall of South Vietnam
in 1975, the United States Government pressed the North Vietnamese
to cooperate in accounting for our missing, but succeeded only in
obtaining the remains of 23 servicemen. The United States focused
its appeals to North Vietnam on what later came to be called
"discrepancy cases." These were men for whom we had information
that they had survived their incidents of loss and were known or
appeared to have been captured by the enemy, and for whom we had
received from Hanoi neither their remains nor information about
their fates. Even before Operation Homecoming was complete, Dr.
Kissinger raised a number of these cases directly with the North
Vietnamese in Hanoi. The North Vietnamese were unresponsive to
The responsibility for carrying out the technical work involved in
accounting for missing Americans was assigned to the Joint Casualty
Resolution Center (JCRC), established in January 1973. Working
under difficult and sometimes hostile conditions, JCRC teams were
able to recover some American remains from old battlefields in
South Vietnam. Among the last American servicemen to be killed by
hostile fire in Vietnam was a member of a JCRC field team who was
shot and killed by the Viet Cong on Dec. 15, 1973.
All JCRC field activity ended with his death; diplomatic efforts to
obtain an accounting through the Four-Party Joint Military Team ran
into a brick wall as a result of the overall problems of
implementing the agreement; and virtually all official U.S. contact
with Vietnam was terminated after the fall of Saigon and the
unification of Vietnam under the North's control.
In November 1975, the House Select Committee on Missing Persons in
Southeast Asia, chaired by Representative G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery,
sought to meet with Vietnamese officials for discussions about
unaccounted-for Americans. To accommodate Hanoi's insistence that
such POW/MIA questions be part of broader discussions on a range of
U.S./Vietnamese bilateral issues, the Montgomery Committee agreed
to include members of other committees in its delegation.
In a Nov. 14, 1975 meeting with Montgomery Committee members,
Secretary of State Henry Kissinger had recommended that the members
discuss the "MIA issue in the context of normalization rather than
in a framework of the Paris accords, which the North Vietnamese had
Vietnam agreed to meet with the Montgomery Committee, and on Dec.
6, 1975, members of the Committee accompanied by four members of
other committees met with North Vietnamese Ambassador Vo Van Sung
During their meeting, which included discussions of trade and aid,
Ambassador Sung claimed that Vietnam had released all prisoners of
war, and had organized efforts to collect information about missing
Americans who had been killed in action. Sung committed his
government to the repatriation of the remains of three American
pilots as a first step towards better understanding between Vietnam
and the U.S. Sung made clear, however, that the construction of a
warmer relationship between the United States and Vietnam would
require reciprocal actions on the part of the U.S. A meeting in
Hanoi was scheduled for four days later.
On Dec. 18, 1975, four members of the Montgomery Committee traveled
to Hanoi with a letter from President Ford which described the
President's views on reciprocity and offered the assurance that the
U.S. would be forward-looking in its relations with the new
governments of Indochina.
Three sets of remains were turned over to the delegation in Hanoi.
Meetings were held with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong and
Vice Foreign Minister Phan Hein. The Vietnamese reiterated their
contention that all American POWs had been released. The
Congressmen appealed for documented evidence on the missing, and
for the recovery of the remains of two Marines who had been killed
at the end of the war. The Vietnamese promised to supply
information about the two Marines.
The North Vietnamese officials then raised the question of promised
reconstruction aid from the U.S. and their understanding of such as
referred to in President Nixon's February 1, 1973 letter to Pham
Van Dong. The Congressmen stated their view that grant assistance
from the U.S. to Vietnam was highly unlikely.
In March 1976, the Select Committee met with Secretary of State
Henry Kissinger and unanimously recommended to him that the
Department of State begin direct negotiations with the Vietnamese
in an effort to resolve POW/MIA questions. That same month, the
U.S. sent a communication to Hanoi requesting preliminary talks.
This and other appeals by the Montgomery Committee for additional
meetings with Vietnamese officials were rebuffed by Hanoi.
In 1977, the Carter Administration, acting on the recommendations
of the Montgomery Committee, explored the possibility of obtaining
additional POW/MIA information through improved overall relations
between the United States and Vietnam.
In February 1977, President Carter appointed a commission headed by
United Autoworkers President Leonard Woodcock and assigned it the
task of seeking additional information from Vietnam and Laos. The
Commission was to listen and report back on matters of interest to
the governments of those countries.
The Woodcock Commission visited Laos and Cambodia in March 1977. In
both countries, the delegation received assurances of cooperation
on POW/MIA matters, coupled with expressions of interest in the
possibility of economic aid. In Vietnam, the Commission received
the remains of 12 U.S. airmen and was informed that a specialized
office would be established by the government to receive
information on missing Americans.
The Woodcock Commission recommended the resumption of regular talks
between the U.S. and North Vietnam, and encouraged the
normalization of diplomatic relations as a means for obtaining a
fuller accounting of missing Americans.
In May 1977, U.S. and Vietnamese representatives held two days of
talks in Paris, during which the U.S. offered to normalize
relations without any conditions. The Vietnamese refused, arguing
that normalization of relations should be contingent on the payment
of U.S. reconstruction aid.
In July 1977, Vietnam joined the United Nations with U.S. support.
In 1978, Vietnamese officials met with JCRC officials in Hawaii as
part of a general move toward better relations. Apparently because
the Carter Administration appeared intent on improving relations
with Vietnam, Vietnam repatriated more than 40 sets of remains
during the Administration's first two years.
The Carter Administration scrapped further consideration of
improved relations with Vietnam following its invasion of Cambodia
in late 1978. This brought progress in obtaining an accounting for
missing Americans to an abrupt halt. Meanwhile, continued violence
in the region accelerated the exodus of refugees, and with them,
reports that American prisoners had been seen alive in Southeast
Asia after the war.
Reagan Administration Initiatives (1982-1987)
In 1982, the Reagan Administration began to revive efforts to
account for missing. In February 1982, Deputy Assistant Secretary
of Defense Richard Armitage led a delegation to Hanoi for POW/MIA
discussions with a Vietnamese delegation headed by Deputy Foreign
Minister Dinh Ngo Liem.
In the course of these discussions, Vietnam agreed to further
technical meetings among officials of the JCRC and Central
Identification Laboratory in Hawaii (CIL-HI) and personnel from
Vietnam's Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP). Vietnam
further agreed to consider four such meetings a year, and to
dispatch a working-level team to JCRC/CIL-HI. Lastly, Vietnam
agreed to consider a U.S. proposal to begin joint U.S./Vietnam
crash-site searches for information about missing Americans.
In September 1982, a delegation from the National League of
Families visited Hanoi. The delegation, led by the League's
Chairman, George Brooks, gained an agreement from Vietnam to hold
four government-to-government technical meetings a year on POW/MIA
Four sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and identified as
those of Americans in 1982.
In July 1983, Vietnam suspended technical meetings in reaction to
what Hanoi termed "hostile statements" by senior U.S. officials.
This was a reference to Secretary of State George Shultz' comments
at an ASEAN meeting in Bangkok that Vietnam was holding more than
400 sets of U.S. remains.
In October 1983, Dr. Richard Childress, the National Security
Council's Director for Asian Affairs, and the League's Executive
Director, Ann Mills Griffiths met in New York with Vietnam's
Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach. In the course of the ensuing
informal discussions, Thach agreed that Vietnam's cooperation on
POW/MIA questions would be undertaken on a humanitarian basis and
would not be linked to diplomatic or economic considerations. He
further agreed to receive a senior U.S. delegation in Hanoi to
discuss expanding U.S./Vietnamese cooperation to resolve the
Eight sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and identified as
American in 1983.
In January 1984, the following joint communique was issued by the
Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Lao People's Democratic Republic
and the People's Republic of Kampuchea:
With the spirit of friendship between the American people
and the three Indochinese peoples which was strengthened
in the struggle against the war of aggression waged by
the U.S. leaders in Indochina, on the basis of
humanitarianism, and understanding the American people,
each country of Indochina will try to inform one another
about the Americans missing during the war in Laos,
Vietnam and Kampuchea.
A delegation led by Armitage traveled to Hanoi in February 1984.
Prior to the delegation's departure, Vietnam and the U.S. released
the following statement:
By mutual agreement, the governments of the United States
and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam believe that the
issue of Americans missing in Vietnam is a humanitarian
one to be dealt with through mutual cooperation and good
Vietnam's commitment to treat the resolution of POW/MIA questions
as a humanitarian issue appeared to allow the U.S. to pursue
cooperation with Vietnam without having to deal constantly with the
entanglements of economic aid and diplomatic recognition. This
expressed lack of linkage has done a great deal since 1984 to
facilitate our dialogue with Vietnam, even though Vietnam's call
for "mutual cooperation and good will" carries with it an
implication of anticipated progress in these and perhaps other
The February 1984 delegation led by Richard Armitage obtained a
formal agreement from Vietnam to accelerate accounting efforts; to
focus initial efforts on easily accessible discrepancy cases in the
Hanoi/Haiphong area and on easily recoverable remains; to provide
new information on several missing Americans; and to resume
technical meetings in the near future.
Later in the year, Vietnam's cooperation as outlined in the
February agreement stopped. Hanoi cited U.S. "hostile rhetoric"
over Vietnam's continued occupation of Cambodia, and the sale of
U.S. radar equipment to China as reasons for the setback.
In October, Childress again traveled to New York for meetings with
Thach, who repeated Vietnam's promise to accelerate resolution of
discrepancy cases in the Hanoi/Haiphong area. He further agreed to
focus on resolving cases of Americans listed by the former Viet
Cong as died in captivity; to send teams into the countryside to
investigate first-hand live-sighting reports; and to continue
Vietnam's overall commitment to resolve the POW/MIA issue as a
Six sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and identified as
those of Americans in 1984.
Childress, Griffiths and Thach next met in New York in March 1985
to discuss a U.S. initiative to expand joint efforts in a
comprehensive two-year plan. Thach promised his Government would
consider the two-year plan. He also agreed to expand the number of
technical meetings from four to six, or more if necessary; to
expedite the return of remains promised in February to the U.S.
technical team; and to reaffirm Vietnam's focus on Hanoi/Haiphong
Later that month the remains of six Americans were repatriated,
including two Americans who were on the PRG list addressed in
Thach's October 1984 commitment.
In July 1985, following discussions with Childress, Griffiths and
Thach agreed to renew negotiations with senior U.S. officials with
the intention of resolving the POW/MIA issue within two years.
Childress led a U.S. delegation to Hanoi in August 1985 for
meetings with Acting Foreign Minister Vo Dong Giang. The U.S.
proposed a comprehensive two-year work plan to resolve the issue,
which included the establishment of a U.S. technical presence in
Hanoi. The technical office was rejected by Hanoi because the U.S
rejected Vietnam's proposal to open a reciprocal office in
Washington. Vietnam offered a counter-proposal to the U.S. which
included language unrelated to POW/MIA questions.
Both sides agreed to meet again in New York in September to resolve
differences in the two-year plans. In those follow-up discussions,
the U.S. accepted in principle Vietnam's unilateral, two-year plan
with modifications. Vietnam agreed to conduct a joint crash site
investigation, and pledged the repatriation of additional American
remains. The U.S. noted that Vietnam's cooperation on POW/MIA
questions would facilitate an improvement in relations following
the achievement of a peace settlement in Cambodia.
In 1985, 38 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans. This was the largest single
turnover of remains since the end of the war.
In January 1986, Childress and Armitage led a delegation to Hanoi
which included Assistant Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and
Griffiths. Their meetings with Thach produced an agreement for
cooperative, multiple field activities, and Vietnam's reaffirmation
of its commitment to investigate live-sighting reports and to all
Vietnam's failure to implement its previous agreements with the
U.S. prompted another Childress-led delegation to New York in May
1986 to meet with Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Hoang Bich Son,
and a subsequent meeting in Hanoi with Thach in July 1986.
In New York, Childress received assurances that Vietnam would
resume a schedule of technical level activities in keeping with
prior commitments, and a promise that Vietnam would increase the
personnel and other resources committed to VNOSMP, Vietnam's MIA
The July discussions in Hanoi produced the usual reaffirmations of
accelerated cooperation and humanitarian purpose. Additionally,
Vietnam undertook to:
. Hold "very productive" technical level meetings in August and
. Allow consultations between American and Vietnamese forensic
specialists in Vietnam;
. Provide in writing the results of its unilateral
investigations of live sighting reports (few details of which
had theretofore been provided to the U.S.);
. Allow U.S. experts to accompany Vietnamese officials on
investigations in accessible areas; discuss with the U.S.
specific crash sites for joint excavation; and
. Send another delegation to JCRC and CIL-HI.
By the fall of 1986, it had become abundantly clear to the U.S.
that Vietnam's agreements and reaffirmations did not translate into
measurable action. U.S. appeals to Vietnam to match deeds with
words were met with repeated assurances of Vietnam's good faith,
but did little to produce the level of cooperation necessary to
resolve the POW/MIA issue in the agreed-upon, two-year time frame.
In 1986, 13 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.
Gen. Vessey's Contributions, 1987-1991
In April 1987, after months of internal discussion, the Reagan
Administration attempted to overcome the prevailing absence of
meaningful Vietnamese cooperation on POW/MIA questions by
appointing General John W. Vessey to be the President's Special
Emissary to Vietnam for POW/MIA Affairs.
Vessey retired after serving 46 years; his last post was as the
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He returned from retirement
at President Reagan's request and was awarded the Presidential
Medal of Freedom in 1992 for his efforts on behalf of unaccounted-
Childress led a U.S. delegation to Hanoi in May 1987 to elicit
Vietnam's agreement to receive the President's emissary. After
difficult negotiations, and a recitation of Hanoi's grievances with
the United States, Vietnam agreed to accept General Vessey.
As described by Vessey, President Reagan's instructions were to
negotiate with the Vietnamese to establish a mechanism with which
to pursue the fullest possible accounting of missing Americans. The
first priority was to ascertain whether any Americans remained in
captivity in Southeast Asia.
The President added to Vessey's portfolio three humanitarian
objectives: the release of former South Vietnamese political and
military officials from so-called "re-education camps"; the
implementation of the Orderly Departure Program to reunite
Vietnamese with their families in the United States and to gaining
permissions for the emigration of Amerasian children to the United
States. Vessey also was authorized by the President to consider
Vietnam's humanitarian concerns and to recommend limited U.S.
initiatives to address some of those concerns.
Due to the dedication and skill of Vessey, enormous progress has
been made toward these objectives. Today, the re-education camps
are empty, the Orderly Departure Program is approaching its
successful completion, and there is a mechanism in place in Vietnam
which should ultimately provide the United States with the
necessary information to achieve the fullest possible accounting
for our missing men.
Vessey's first mission to Vietnam occurred in August 1987. The
first priority of his discussions with Thach was to extract a
recognition from the Vietnamese of discrepancy cases was required
thorough investigation of discrepancy cases was required if the
U.S. was to accept Vietnam's assurances that it held no American
Vessey succeeded in gaining Vietnam's acceptance of the view that
resolving discrepancy cases was essential to the accounting
process. His initial negotiations with Thach produced Vietnam's
agreement to renew cooperation on POW/MIA questions by focusing on
discrepancy cases and on those cases of Americans who were listed
as having died in captivity in the South.
It was further agreed that the focus of discrepancy case
investigations would be on 70 cases which Vessey termed "most
compelling." Vietnam agreed to specific measures to accelerate
progress toward accounting for our missing, and to subsequent
meetings of U.S. and Vietnamese experts to facilitate this
Additionally, both the U.S. and Vietnam affirmed that cooperation
on POW/MIA and on other humanitarian issues would be pursued
separately from other bilateral matters. The U.S. agreed to
address certain humanitarian concerns of Vietnam, and to send a
team of experts to Vietnam to collect information such as
prosthetics requirements and capabilities on the problems of
In September 1987, Vessey led a delegation to New York for follow
up discussions with Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy
Nien. Vietnam's cooperation still lagged behind its formal
assurances, and in December Childress traveled to New York to meet
with members of Vietnam's delegation to the United Nations to urge
more rapid cooperation. Vietnam agreed to hold technical talks in
In 1987, 8 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.
Vessey met again with Minister Thach in New York in June 1988.
Along with promises to accelerate cooperation and reaffirmations of
earlier agreements, Thach agreed in principle to permit joint field
surveys and excavations.
In the following months, Vietnam's cooperation with U.S. efforts
improved substantially. Joint field operations were increased, and
a large number of remains were repatriated.
In 1988, 62 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.
After reappointment by President Bush as Special Emissary, Vessey
led a delegation to Hanoi in October 1989. In addition to seeking
expanded joint field operations, Vessey's negotiations prioritized
the United States' need for information from Vietnam's war
Thach agreed in the October discussions to search for additional
data regarding discrepancy cases, and to accept for investigation
new discrepancy cases, including those involving Americans who were
lost in areas of Laos controlled by North Vietnam during the war.
Additionally, Thach agreed to expand cooperation in the field,
recognizing the U.S. need for specific data and access to
Vietnam's familiar reluctance to implement its public and private
assurances with the agreed-upon actions prompted a December 1989
meeting between Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David
Lambertson and Vietnam's U.N. Ambassador Trinh Xuan Lang, during
which Lang reaffirmed Vietnam's promise to increase cooperation.
In 1989, 33 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.
In September 1990, Vessey and Assistant Secretary of State Richard
Solomon met with Vietnam's Vice Foreign Minister Le Mai for
discussions on Cambodia and the need to resolve the POW/MIA issue.
Later that month, Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, met in
New York with Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach. Baker stressed to
Thach the importance the U.S. attached to resolving the POW/MIA
issue and appealed to Thach for Vietnam's full implementation of
the commitments it had undertaken on POW/MIA cooperation,
recognizing that once a Cambodian settlement was achieved, Hanoi's
cooperation on POW/MIA questions would govern the speed with which
the U.S. and Vietnam improved their relations.
The following month, Thach and his delegation came to Washington
for discussions with Vessey. This was the first visit by a senior
Vietnamese official since the war and was intended to symbolize the
promise of improved relations portended by cooperation on the
U.S. officials had long suspected that Vietnam's war-time records
included substantial information about the fate of missing
Americans. Accordingly, Vessey's efforts were increasingly focused
on securing U.S. access to Vietnamese military archives which
contained this information.
Vessey's discussions with Thach in Washington yielded Vietnam's
agreement to form a joint research "information seeking" team with
the U.S. to locate and make available Vietnamese historical
documents which contained information relevant to POW/MIA cases.
Also during the Washington meeting, Vessey resurrected the U.S.
proposal to establish a POW/MIA office in Hanoi. He stressed that
the U.S. would have to be assured that a resident U.S. team in
Hanoi would have sufficient work to justify its presence; this
would include access to archival information.
Thach's interest in establishing a U.S. POW/MIA office in Hanoi was
immediately apparent. Not only in discussions with Vessey, but in
subsequent discussions with members of Congress and other
interested Americans, Thach frequently stressed his desire that the
office be opened quickly.
The question of an official U.S. presence in Hanoi had become more
than a mechanism to hasten resolution of the POW/MIA issue. Thach,
who was Vietnam's leading proponent of rapprochement with the U.S.,
perceived the opening of a U.S. POW/MIA Office in Hanoi as evidence
of progress toward normalization of relations.
Despite its Foreign Minister's interest, Vietnam did not move
quickly to ensure U.S. confidence that its POW/MIA team would have
the access to documentary evidence required. Progress stalled over
Vietnam's insistence that U.S. access to military documents would
compromise Vietnam's national security. Accordingly, only
Vietnamese personnel would search the archives, after which they
would share with the U.S. their summary notes of any information
related to U.S. POW/MIA cases they discovered. This arrangement
was not satisfactory to the U.S.
In 1990, 17 sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.
1991: The Pace of Activity Quickens
In April 1991, Senator John McCain traveled to Vietnam for meetings
with President Do Muoi and Foreign Minister Thach in an effort to
advance the establishment of a U.S. POW/MIA office there. McCain
sought Vietnam's agreement to allow U.S. investigators the kind of
access to archival information which would meet both Vietnamese and
U.S. concerns. McCain was also authorized by the Bush
Administration to discuss in general terms a forthcoming U.S.
proposal for bilateral cooperation leading to the full
normalization of relations, which came to be referred to informally
as the "Road Map."
Thach was initially reluctant to modify Vietnamese strictures on
access to their archives, but near the end of their discussions
Thach asked McCain to offer his assurances to Vessey that American
investigators would be granted the level of access that the U.S.
In April 1991, Assistant Secretary of State Solomon outlined to
U.N. Ambassador Lang the United States' road-map proposal for
improved relations. In general terms, the Road Map provides in
four phases for the normalization of economic and diplomatic
relations between the United States and Vietnam conditioned on
Vietnam's cooperation in the achievement and implementation of a
settlement to the Cambodian civil war and the fullest possible
accounting of American POW/MIAs.
Vietnam never formally accepted nor rejected this outline of
reciprocal steps toward full normalization of relations, although
Vietnamese officials have often expressed resentment at its terms.
Nevertheless, Vietnam appears to recognize that U.S. terms for
normalization are unlikely to be improved (from their perspective).
Since the Road Map proposal was put forward, Vietnam has fully met
the standard of cooperation requested with respect to the peace
plan in Cambodia. Although serious problems exist with respect to
the implementation of that plan, the responsibility for these
problems does not rest with Vietnam.
Vietnam's cooperation on the POW/MIA issue over the last 20 months
is not as satisfactory as its constructive cooperation in the
Cambodia settlement. However, when judged as a whole, the steps
Hanoi has taken since April 1991 depict dramatic, albeit irregular,
progress in joint efforts to account for missing Americans.
Unfortunately, the number of Americans accounted for has fallen
dramatically during the same period. The impetus for Vietnam's
cooperation has come from several sources. Vessey has provided the
Vietnamese with a respected and influential contact within the U.S.
. The Bush Administration's Road Map establishes a clear linkage
between increasing levels of Vietnamese cooperation and
. The disintegration of the Soviet empire has deprived Vietnam
of many external sources of economic assistance and political
comfort. Vietnam's relations with China, which have been tense
traditionally, have worsened over territorial disputes. With
its Soviet allies gone, Vietnam now lacks a counterweight to
. The rapid economic growth of other Southeast Asian nations has
given younger Vietnamese leaders a strong incentive to
establish their own contacts with the West.
. The formation of the Select Committee has demonstrated anew
the high priority attached to the POW/MIA issue by the
American people and Government.
Obviously, the Committee does not know precisely how all of these
matters have been factored into the calculations of the Vietnamese
Government, but the overall trends offer hope for better
cooperation on POW/MIA issues.
Shortly after Solomon discussed the Road Map with Lang, Vessey led
another U.S. delegation to Hanoi. In the course of their
discussions, Thach reiterated Vietnam's humanitarian purpose: an
implicit, though not formal, rejection of the Road Map's linkage of
normalization to POW/MIA accounting.
The most important accomplishment of the April 1991 Vessey trip was
an agreement to establish a U.S. POW/MIA office in Hanoi. Although
the office was originally intended to be temporary, it remains in
full operation today, staffed by the Joint Task Force-Full
Accounting (JTF-FA). The office, informally referred to as the
"Ranch," coordinates archival research, helps to plan field
investigations, and serves as a base of operations for live-
Although establishment of the Ranch was a step forward in U.S.-
Vietnamese cooperation, U.S. investigators did not gain promised
access to archival information on a timely or regular basis for
many months. In July 1991, prospects for further cooperation
appeared to suffer a setback when Thach was relieved of his
ministerial portfolio and his seat in the Politburo. As previously
observed, Thach was considered to be Vietnam's leading senior
advocate of better relations with the U.S. His removal was seen by
some observers to be at least partly attributable to
dissatisfaction inside the Politburo with the pace of progress
toward lifting the U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam.
In August 1991, Vietnam's Vice Foreign Minister Le Mai met with
Solomon in Bangkok. Mai argued that Vietnam and the U.S. had
resolved already the discrepancy cases, presumably clearing the way
for rapid progress towards normal relations. Solomon responded by
suggesting that greater progress on these cases was still expected
by the U.S.
In September 1991, the United States announced a grant of $1.3
million to assist the war-disabled in Vietnam.
In October 1991, Vessey returned to Hanoi for a meeting with the
newly-appointed Prime Minister, Vo Van Kiet, and newly-appointed
Foreign Minister, Nguyen Manh Cam. During the meeting, the Prime
Minister pledged "unconditional cooperation" to resolve the POW/MIA
issue, which gave U.S. officials encouragement that Vietnam had not
forsaken such cooperation in the new internal political environment
Also in October, Secretary Baker announced that the U.S. was
prepared to take some steps toward normalization with Vietnam in
light of Vietnam's support for the Cambodia peace plan. In
December, the U.S. Government lifted its ban on organized travel to
Vietnam by Americans and began implementing other steps within
Phase I of the Road Map.
About this time, U.S. investigators in Vietnam received part of an
84-page military record documenting U.S. air losses in Military
Region Four. The U.S. made frequent appeals for the rest of this
valuable document. Vietnamese officials assured the U.S. that they
would turn over the complete document, but did not do so.
In 1991, three sets of remains were repatriated by Vietnam and
identified as those of Americans.