United States, Vietnam Plan Reciprocal Visits

From Times Wire Services

A U.S. Navy ship is expected to stop in Vietnam after a Nov. 8-12 visit to the United States by Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra, the U.S. Embassy said Friday.

Both visits will be the first of their kind since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Tra will hold talks with U.S. officials on victims of the Agent Orange defoliant and on U.S. soldiers listed as missing in action. He will meet with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and national security advisor Condoleezza Rice, a Vietnamese government source said.

His trip will be followed by the U.S. ship's port call to the southern commercial hub Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, in mid-November, the source said. No date had been set.

In an interview with VietNamNet, a state-controlled online newspaper, Tra said he also planned to ask Washington to do more to help clear unexploded ordnance that continues to kill or maim dozens of Vietnamese every year.

And he said he was prepared to discuss Vietnam's human rights record. The communist government has faced international criticism over its stance on political and religious freedoms.

Vietnam and the U.S. have made significant progress in commercial ties, but defense and military links have lagged given the bitter legacy of the war between the communist North Vietnam and the U.S.-backed South that was based in Saigon.

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