U.S., Viet Envoys Discuss MIA Photo : Search: Picture that purportedly shows three missing servicemen has given new impetus to resolving the question of missing Americans.
A senior State Department envoy met with Vietnamese officials in Hanoi on Friday to discuss a blurred photograph that renewed faint hopes in the United States that American prisoners are alive in Indochina.
Kenneth Quinn, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, arrived in the Vietnamese capital to talk about efforts by Vietnam and the United States to resolve cases of American servicemen listed as missing in action in the Vietnam war. Quinn will visit Laos today.
Quinn met Friday morning with Le Bang, the deputy director of the American relations section of the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry, and Ho Xuan Dich, who heads the Foreign Ministry department that is charged with tracking down missing Americans.
While Quinn was in Hanoi to discuss recent progress on MIA matters, such as the opening of an American office staffed by U.S. military personnel from the casualty resolution center in Honolulu, his mission was given new impetus by the release in Washington of a controversial photo that purportedly shows three U.S. servicemen who are alive somewhere in Indochina.
The photo shows three obviously well-fed men holding a crude sign dated last year. Relatives have identified the men in the photo as Air Force Col. John Leighton Robertson, Air Force Maj. Albro Lundy Jr. and Navy Lt. Larry James Stevens. All three men were fliers who disappeared after being shot down during the Vietnam War. Relatives of all three men live in Southern California.
POW-MIA activists have subsequently publicized better, more recent photographs that purportedly show two other MIAs, Army Special Forces Capt. Donald Gene Carr and Navy Lt. Daniel Vernor Borah Jr. Pentagon officials, who have cast strong doubt on the first photo’s authenticity, say the other photos are under investigation.
U.S. and Vietnamese officials emphasized that other supposed MIA photos have been hoaxes. No POWs have ever been located in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. The latest photo of the three men reportedly came from a student in Cambodia who sold it to officials in Bangkok.
“Quinn is personally interested in resolving this issue,” Robert Destatte, deputy head of the new office, told the British news agency Reuters after Quinn’s arrival.
Vietnamese officials said they believe that the photo is a cruel hoax and that information has already been handed over to the Americans proving that the three men are dead.
The Pentagon, in its most thorough response to the case, revealed a collection of apparently forged documents Thursday that had been offered as evidence of the three men’s survival. The Pentagon said the forgeries and other developments cast doubt on the possibility that the three men are alive.
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