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U.S. Plan to Open Vietnam Office Marks First Step to Full Relations

<i> From Associated Press</i>

The United States will open a diplomatic mission in Vietnam this autumn, 19 years after the chaotic evacuation of its diplomats at the end of the Vietnam War.

U.S. officials are awaiting Vietnamese approval to open a Hanoi liaison office in September or October, and are considering a three-story, French-style residence for a future ambassador, sources said Monday.

Construction of the nine-story glass building for the liaison office was completed last month by a Vietnamese company.

A U.S. presence in Hanoi would encourage American visitors and Vietnamese, especially the young, who want to visit the United States. Travel for Vietnamese now is restricted to a small number of students and diplomats.

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The liaison office is the first step toward full diplomatic relations, once the United States is satisfied Vietnam has done everything it can to help account for Americans missing from the war. Hanoi is to open its own liaison office in Washington.

The United States closed its consulate in Hanoi in 1955, when Washington refused to recognize the Communist North Vietnamese government that defeated French troops and ended colonial rule the previous year.

U.S. diplomats left Vietnam in April, 1975, fleeing their Saigon embassy after the North defeated the U.S.-allied South Vietnamese government.

The new 11-member U.S. mission will handle MIA issues, human rights, trade and economics. It will help American citizens arrested in Vietnam--a major concern of U.S. visitors, particularly Vietnamese Americans.

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It also will provide services for U.S. business people, and for Vietnamese business people, students and officials traveling to the United States.

The building under consideration as an ambassador’s residence is occupied by Vietnam’s Press Center, which provides translators, guides and other services to foreign reporters.

The former U.S. consulate building is now the headquarters of the Hanoi Fatherland Front, a political body intended to prevent efforts to overthrow the Communist leadership.


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