|US Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink visited Truong Son National Cemetery (Photo: US Embassy)
Addressing the aftermath of the war is not just the responsibility of the two governments. It requires the joint efforts of the people of the two countries.
Mathew Reenan is a veteran of the war in Vietnam. Since the two countries normalized their ties in 1995, he has always wanted to return to Da Nang, where he fought during the war. In 2015 his wish came true. During a visit to Da Nang that year, he had some unforgettable experiences with the Center for Child Care of the Da Nang Association of Agent Orange/Dioxin. “I have very nice experiences in a very simple way with the people of Vietnam. I was in Da Nang during the war. I wanted wanted to go back. I wanted to see it. It was sort of a nostalgic, sentimental reason. I had the opportunity to visit the Da Nang Association for victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin. I was only there for 3 days, and I had a really nice experience with meeting the staffs and the children. So it was a very good experience to have the welcoming of the Vietnamese people. No anger feelings of "you did bad things when you came here during the war", nothing like that at all. In fact it’s opposite. And on the run way leaving Da Nang after 3 days, I looked out the window, and I said "I'm coming back". And I continue to comeback,” said Mathew.
During the last 4 years, he has visited Da Nang twice to work as a volunteer for the center. Reenan says he will continue this work as long as he can.
Hoping to heal the wounds of war, Nguyen Thu Thao, who was Chief Representative of the American War Veterans Association in Vietnam for the last 15 years, lobbied for a bilateral agreement on mine clearance in 2003 and lobbied US congressmen to address the problems of Orange/Dioxin victims in 2008. Thao said this work laid a foundation for long-term cooperation by Vietnam and US in addressing the war aftermath.
“In May, 2007, the Bush administration provided an additional 3 million USD to address the Agent Orange/Dioxin problem in Vietnam. 3 million USD was too little to solve the problem but its significance was immeasurable because it reflected a change in US policy and an acknowledgement of humanitarian responsibility. Since then, more money has been allocated," said Thao.
The US has given Vietnam more than 105 million USD to clear bombs, mines, and other unexploded ordnance, provide training and other resources for mine and bomb clearance, support victims and their families, and raised public awareness of bombs and mines in high-risk areas. Between 2012 and 2018 the US decontaminated 100,000 cubic meters of soil at Da Nang airport at a cost of 110 million USD. Last year, the US continued a dioxin decontamination project at Bien Hoa airport that is 4 times the scale of the Da Nang project.
Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink in 2019 became the first US Ambassador to visit the Truong Son National Cemetery in Quang Tri province, where more than 10,000 Vietnamese martyrs are resting in peace. His visit reflected a desire to put aside the past and look toward the future.
|Timothy Rieser, senior advisor at the US Senate Appropriations Committee
Major pillar of bilateral ties
Vietnam-US cooperation in addressing the war aftermath has brought the two countries closer together and has been a bright spot in bilateral ties. During a visit to Vietnam last year, Bonnie Glick, Deputy Director of the US Agency for International Development, said cooperation in addressing the war aftermath is a major pillar of the Vietnam-US Comprehensive Partnership.
Timothy Rieser, senior advisor at the US Senate Appropriations Committee said the US will donate 2.5 million USD to a project to help Vietnam locate Vietnamese soldiers who went missing in action during the war. This will be the most significant project the US has undertaken to address the aftermath of the war in Vietnam.