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

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer 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.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs