Washington – The American military, once the No.1 enemy, is returning to Vietnam – this time with the official blessings of the communist government in Hanoi. Under a new agreement with the US Defence Department, American military specialists will help train Vietnamese soldiers, said Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan.
In an interview with The Washington Times, he said the agreement was made during a meeting between US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. The latter was in Washington for an official visit last week – the first head of Vietnam’s communist government to visit the United States since Vietnam War ended 30 years ago.
Mr Khoan told the newspaper: "We have agreed that Vietnam will take part in the IMET military training programme." IMET or International Military Education and Training programme promotes military-to-military relations to increase cooperation and understanding between the US and foreign countries.
"At the initial stage, we will receive support in training our military in terms of English, and some of the medical staff and technical staff," he added.
Pentagon spokesman Lt-Cmdr Greg Hicks said that details of the IMET working-level proposal still had to be worked out. "Both sides see this as another step in the development of normal bilateral military relations," he said, adding that the agreement "will open the door to more exchanges and opportunities of mutual value."
"It could include a more robust military-to-military relationship," said Cmdr Hicks.
DPM Khoan said both sides did not raise the issue of establishing US bases in Vietnam during the talks.
* US troops to train Vietnam soldiers (The Straits Times, June 24)