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Vietnamese Defense Minister Welcomed at Pentagon - 2003-11-10

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has disclosed he will travel to Asia later this week to visit U.S. troops and to confer with officials in Japan and South Korea. Mr. Rumsfeld unveiled his plans after holding historic talks at the Pentagon earlier Monday with the defense minister of another Asian country, Pham Van Tra of Vietnam.

The Vietnamese defense minister's visit to the Pentagon was the first by a senior military official from Hanoi since the end of the Vietnam War three decades ago.

A brief statement on the meeting said Mr. Rumsfeld and his Vietnamese counterpart discussed regional and global security issues.

No details were given. But the statement said the meeting, quoting now, "highlighted positive progress in the overall defense relationship between the United States and Vietnam." Mr. Rumsfeld, in particular, acknowledged continued Vietnamese cooperation in efforts to account for some 19-hundred American service personnel still missing since the war.

The two men also discussed cooperation in de-mining, disaster relief, search and rescue and medical assistance.

The talks at the Pentagon came shortly before Mr. Rumsfeld met with foreign reporters in Washington and announced he will travel to Japan and South Korea later this week for talks on cooperation in the global war on terror and other issues.

Mr. Rumsfeld indicated his talks in Tokyo would cover Japan's growing military participation in international security affairs, such as its navy's assistance in at-sea refueling for coalition ships during anti-terror operations in Afghanistan.

He said there are opportunities for expanding Japan's defense role. "Japan is, needless to say, an important country and a close and long-standing friend of the United States. We have many shared strategic interests and common values, and working together, our two nations can contribute to peace and stability," he said.

In South Korea, Mr. Rumsfeld said, he will attend annual defense consultative talks. He said security relations between the two countries are strong and healthy after five decades of defense cooperation. He noted U.S. and South Korean troops are currently serving side-by-side in both Iraq and Afghanistan.