News / Asia

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

US and Vietnamese officials press start button for Agent Orange clean up project in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
US and Vietnamese officials press start button for Agent Orange clean up project in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
Marianne Brown

Government officials from the U.S. and Vietnam attended a ceremony Saturday marking the next stage in the cleanup process of one of the Vietnam War's deadliest legacies - Agent Orange.

The herbicide was sprayed by the U.S. military as a defoliant to destroy jungle cover for communist troops. Its highly toxic byproduct, dioxin, has been linked to diseases such as diabetes, cancer and birth defects.

The $84 million project, officially launched in 2012, aims to clean up contaminated soil by cooking it at high temperatures.

On Saturday, a group of visiting U.S. senators and congressmen crowded together at one of 28 so-called dioxin “hotspots” in the country, the former U.S. air base at Da Nang, in central Vietnam, where Agent Orange was stored. They hit a giant start button to initiate the clean up.

Part of the water treatment system at the dioxin remediation site at U.S. airbase in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)Part of the water treatment system at the dioxin remediation site at U.S. airbase in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
x
Part of the water treatment system at the dioxin remediation site at U.S. airbase in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)
Part of the water treatment system at the dioxin remediation site at U.S. airbase in Da Nang, April 19, 2014. (Marianne Brown/VOA)

"We built a containment structure roughly the size of a football field and filled it with 45,000 cubic meters of dioxin-contaminated soil," said U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam David Shear.

"Beginning today the contaminated soil will be heated to extremely high temperatures to destroy dioxin. After approximately four months the soil will be tested to confirm that the project cleanup goals have been achieved," he said.

Healing the wounds of war has been an important issue for the two countries since diplomatic relations were normalized nearly two decades ago. The cleanup has become a symbol of progress and cooperation between the two governments.

According to U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, who led the congressional delegation, the project has four goals.

"[The first is] to eliminate the danger from dioxin to people living here. Second, to show that for so many years, the U.S. didn’t ignore this problem, we returned to take care of it. Third, our two countries can work together on an issue that for more than three decades was an obstacle for better relations. Fourth, [we want] to improve services for people with disabilities regardless of the cause, including what may have been caused by Agent Orange," Leahy said.

An environmental assessment is now being carried out at another former air base, Bien Hoa.

US avoids liability

While the U.S. continues to pump money into funding the Agent Orange cleanup and helping people with disabilities in Vietnam, Washington has never admitted liability for health problems caused by dioxin.

"America is trying to avoid all the one-to-one compensation cases by arguing the scientific basis is not clear, you have no basis, you don’t know what the genetics of the people were to begin with. That’s what a good defense lawyer would do," according to Carl Thayer, a professor at Australia's University of New South Wales.

In 2004 a group of Vietnamese took the chemical companies that produced Agent Orange to court in the U.S., but a federal judge dismissed the case on the grounds that use of the defoliant did not violate international law at the time.

The U.S. also helps in programs aimed at dealing with unexploded ordnance (UXO) and landmine contamination in Vietnam.

But neither the United States nor Vietnam has signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty - Vietnam citing national security concerns, especially border security.

One expert who works in the field of UXO clearance - who did not want to be named - said this is because Vietnam is reluctant to clear mines on its border with China.

While the cleanup project has prompted many to reflect on the wounds of war, Vietnam's Vice Minister of National Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh said it is an opportunity to look to the future.

He said he believed the success of the Agent Orange project lies not in the fixing of past issues, but in opening a new road for the future.

"President Obama and President Sang inaugurated the new U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership last summer. I can think of no better example for our growing friendship than this project," said Ambassador Shear.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: KJW 79 from: USA
April 24, 2014 8:10 PM
Wow. This Vietcong that posted should be taught about the war and what the north did. We Americans went and fought to give you freedom and now I see you just spit on is for that NO RELATIONS with the North. If the north was as nice an proper as they claim they would admit their own responsibility I the war as admit they were wrong and give the country it's freedom. I guess we should've just nuked the while north and been done with it. Well hindsight is 20/20. As for agent orange, it effected many Americans when they came home and still does to this day and will continue to effect that family line for generations. But just like every other communist and socialist state you don't care and just eat to poke at TRUE freedom fighters. AMERICANS ARE THE WORLDS LAST LINE OF DEFENSE AGAINST THE EVIL IN THIS WORLD. So if I were you, is pray that we would come back and finally give you TRUE freedom.

by: Ed Perhay from: USA
April 23, 2014 3:24 AM
Please do not be swept away with this picture op. None of the Vietnam Veterans who lost friends and their families want to see a loving relationship evolve here again. The North will always be the North. They have had decades to convince the world they can be nation committed to their people and the world. Actions speak louder than words here. They have done nothing to convince anyone they have changed from the 60's. Sorry I'm not going to be in denial. The war did happen and many Americans and other around the world still suffer its results. If you wanted to spend more money on Vietnam you should have done it when American lives were at risk..

by: NMQ from: Viet Nam
April 20, 2014 11:26 AM
CJD-Comparing the USA with Canada? What a joke. There's no contest in terms of the death and destruction that your country has caused in Viet Nam and many other countries about the world. Are you a nationalist or just plain ignorant of Amerika's history? Do you know how many Vietnamese died at the hands of your country's military and that of its allies and its client state?
In Response

by: Ian from: USA
April 20, 2014 1:02 PM
This article is good in provide the information of how the two countries approaching new friendship after many year of distance.
Before regurgitate the one sided propaganda acquiring from living under the communist of how bad America & its allies are in the war in Vietnam . I beg you to read more & search for the truth that at the time there was a struggle between the two political systems in the world (The free world & the communist bloc) In that war the communist bloc used Vietnam as a frontier & encourage North Vietnam to overrun South Vietnam (disregard & violate the Paris peace accord)
Also do stop the habit of assigning the dead toll in Vietnam war to one side ( America & its allied) as if there were no death of civilians , atrocities & destructions committed by the communist north Vietnam.
Don't be blind to the fact of your own Ho chi Minh had hundred thousands of Vietnamese killed under the disguise of land reform (this is just one example of how conveniently one can be forgetful of one owns crime) Type the phrase "Land reform in Vietnam" in Wikipedia, and read it and think for yourself .

by: Jonathan huang from: Canada
April 19, 2014 12:12 PM
Using chemical weapons is against the international law. The perpetrator must be trailed by the international war crime court!
Evil America!
In Response

by: CJD from: USA
April 19, 2014 3:27 PM
Jonathan, yes chemical weapon use is against international law. So is genocide. Not sure how the international war crime court is going to trail them??? Evil is world wide. Just take a look at Canada; http://canadiangenocide.nativeweb.org/ Hate much?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More