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Office of the President

For Immediate Release July 2, 1993

Statement by the President on U.S. Policy Toward Vietnam

It has always been my firm belief that America's highest priority in its approach toward Vietnam is to secure a full accounting on our Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.

Today, I am announcing two new steps toward that goal. The first involves access by Vietnam to the International Monetary Fund. The second is my decision to send a new, high-level delegation to Vietnam to press for further progress on unresolved POW/MIA issues. Together, these steps offer the best hope of providing America's POW/MIA families the answers and peace of mind they deserve.

Over the past several months, I have given intense thought to how best to achieve the fullest possible accounting for our POW/MIAs and how to shape U.S. policy toward Vietnam to achieve that goal. I have met with Veterans, with the families whose loved ones have not returned and with Members of Congress who have a strong interest in this issue, including some who were held as prisoners of war.

Last night, I met with a group of impressive, dedicated representatives of veterans organizations and families who care deeply about our government's efforts to achieve the fullest possible accounting of our missing. They share my own belief that our policy toward Vietnam must be driven not by commercial interests but by the overriding purpose of achieving further progress toward the fullest possible accounting of our POW/MIAs. Vietnam has long been a divisive issue for America. It remains so today. I know there is strong disagreement among all those with an interest in the POW/MIA issue on how best to further our mutual goal. Where there is no disagreement, however, is on the need to ensure that any decision taken is made in answer to the only relevant question: will it help us discover the truth about our missing?

One of the tragedies of this issue is that our own government has often denied unnecessarily information about this issue to the American public. That is why I have instructed all U.S. Government POW/MIA related documents to be declassified by Veterans Day of this year, except for that tiny fraction that could still affect our national security or invade the privacy of the families. I have also been working to consolidate the POW/MIA agencies and resources to enhance the efficiency of these operations and access by the public. They have a right to know and I intend to ensure they do.

Since taking office, I have reviewed the progress made to date in resolving unanswered questions concerning the fate of American service personnel who did not return from Vietnam. I have insisted on the fullest possible accounting from the Vietnamese government and pressed for further progress. As part of this effort, I dispatched General John Vessey to Vietnam last April as my Special Emissary for POW/MIA Affairs to press for further progress. In addition, Members of Congress and representatives of veterans groups have travelled to Vietnam to press for that goal.

In an effort to encourage further progress, it is appropriate at this time to recognize what the Vietnamese have done in our effort to account for our missing. Attached is a summary outing that progress. Therefore, I have decided to end our opposition to the efforts of other nations to clear Vietnam's arrears in the IMF. I believe, as do former POWs John McCain and Douglas "Pete" Peterson and others veterans such as John Kerry and others in Congress, that such action will best serve the goal of achieving further progress toward the fullest possible accounting.

Any further steps in US-Vietnamese relations will strictly depend on further progress by the Vietnamese on the POW/MIA issue. We should not be swayed from that course; America owes no less to the brave men and women who fought in Vietnam and to their loved ones. Progress to date is simply not sufficient to warrant any change in our trade embargo or any further steps toward normalization.

In order to press for further progress and send a clear message to the Vietnamese government, I will send to Hanoi a high level delegation. The official delegation will include Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs Hershel Gober, Assistant Secretary of State Winston Lord and Lieutenant General Michael E. Ryan.

I also have invited representatives of the three largest veterans group to accompany the delegation. The American Legion, The Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans have each agreed to send representatives with the delegation and I am grateful for their willingness to participate in this important mission. In addition, I have invited the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia to send a representative. I have also asked our current Ambassador in Thailand, David Floyd Lambertson, who has extensive experience in Vietnam, to assist the delegation.

The delegation will make clear to the Vietnamese that any further steps in relations between our two nations depend on tangible progress on the outstanding POW/MIA cases. We insist upon efforts by the Vietnamese in four key areas:

Remains:            Concrete results from efforts on their part 
                    to recover remains and repatriate American 

Discrepancy cases: Continued resolution of 92 discrepancy cases,

live sightings and field activities.

Laos:               Further assistance in implementing trilateral 
                    investigation with the Lao.
Archives:           Accelerated efforts to provide all POW/MIA 
                    related documents that will help lead to 
                    genuine answers.

The individuals on this delegation share my own determination to do all we can to find the truth surrounding those who did not come home. They will press hard for results.

The delegation will also raise with the Vietnamese continuing human rights concerns and press for progress in the areas of basic freedoms, democracy and economic reform.

For many Americans, the Vietnam War left deep wounds that have yet to heal. One of the ways to help the process of healing is to help the friends and families of POWs and MIAs learn the truth. The steps I have outlined today will advance that goal.