View Full Version : US, Vietnam vets welcome secret files pact on POWs

09-24-03, 04:45 AM
By Christina Toh-Pantin

HANOI, Sept. 24 U.S. and Vietnam veterans of the Vietnam War said on Wednesday they supported a pact made by their governments that would provide access to secret Vietnam documents that may shed light on any American prisoners held after the war.

The Pentagon's office of POW-MIA affairs said on Tuesday that both countries had agreed ''in principle'' to an unusual U.S. proposal to hire retired senior Vietnamese intelligence officers to search classified Vietnamese government files.
America says 1,882 of its service personnel are listed as missing in action and unaccounted for. None are listed as prisoners of war, but there have been reports over the years that some prisoners remained there after the war's end in 1975.
The issue has been fraught with emotion, with some MIA families bitterly accusing Hanoi of hiding information about their loved ones. Vietnam denies this.
Asked if the Vietnam Veterans of America was behind the programme, which could begin before the end of this year, the group's national president Thomas Corey who is visiting Vietnam, said: ''Absolutely, because I think information will be found.''
''It's up to the Vietnamese side on how in-depth they can go into classified information, the same as it is on the American side here,'' Corey said following a meeting with the Veterans Association of Vietnam to commemorate 10 years of cooperation.
Lt. General Dang Quan Thuy, president of the Vietnam veterans group, also voiced support for the secret files pact, saying: ''I think if the MIA offices of both sides have reached an agreement, the Vietnamese veterans will help actively.''
At the meeting, the U.S. veterans also handed over information linked to 501 missing Vietnamese servicemen, which include U.S. military accounts of grave sites and identification cards removed from dead Vietnamese fighters.
The Americans say they have to date provided documentation relating to more than 8,000 missing Vietnamese.
The meeting, which was held at the Vietnam veterans office in a room showcasing a painting of the country's revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh, struck a conciliatory note but also raised some touchy subjects.
Thuy urged the seven visiting Americans to dissuade lawmakers from passing a bill that includes an amendment linking human rights to non-humanitarian aid for Vietnam. Hanoi is accused of repressing religion and personal freedoms, which it denies.
Hanoi has gone as far as to warn that such legislation -- which is awaiting consideration by the Senate -- might impede cooperation between the two countries in MIA searches.
''It is not going to strengthen the friendship (of the countries),'' Thuy said.