Ending months of deadlock, American and Vietnamese negotiators wrapped up their highest-level talks on the issue of missing U.S. servicemen today with Vietnam promising to speed the search and the United States agreeing to address Vietnam's "urgent humanitarian concerns."
U.S. presidential envoy Gen. John W. Vessey arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, later in the day to brief Thai officials Tuesday on what he termed "detailed, candid and constructive" talks on the issue of 1,776 U.S. servicemen listed as missing in Vietnam 14 years after U.S. forces were withdrawn.
"Specific measures were agreed upon to accelerate progress toward accounting for Americans missing in Vietnam, and to address certain urgent humanitarian concerns of Vietnam," the negotiators said in a joint statement issued in Hanoi.
"In particular, meetings of experts on these issues will take place in the near future: one to discuss steps to resolve the MIA-POW issues, and one to discuss urgent Vietnamese humanitarian concerns," it added.
No Link to Normalization
It was the first time that the U.S. government agreed to address Vietnam's humanitarian concerns but did not define them or say how the United States would address them.
At the outset of the talks, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien told reporters that the "humanitarian concerns" involved those maimed, widowed and orphaned by the war.
The final statement made it clear that the issues of prisoners of war, soldiers listed as missing in action and Vietnam's concerns about its war victims would not be linked to the broader issue of a normalization of political and economic relations between the two countries.
U.S. officials had feared that Hanoi was seeking U.S. aid and re-establishment of diplomatic ties as a price for help in accounting for American MIAs.
The chief negotiators declined to give any further details and refused to answer questions.
Vessey, leader of the American delegation and the most senior U.S. official to visit Hanoi to discuss the issue, said he first had to report to President Reagan on the three meetings with Vietnamese officials.
The U.S. government has refused to discuss a normalization of relations with Vietnam since Hanoi's troops invaded and occupied Cambodia in 1979.
The United States wants to resume an exchange of information and approval for further joint excavations of crash sites of American warplanes. Vietnam last year stalled on cooperation after internal criticism that it was getting nothing in return for its help to the Americans.