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One Last Battle Clinton Urged Not To Go Ahead With Plan To Normalize Relations With Hanoi

Sat., July 8, 1995

With a White House decision perhaps just days away, Vietnam veterans and family groups are making a last-ditch lobbying effort to dissuade President Clinton from normalizing relations with Vietnam.

All of Clinton’s top national security aides, including Secretary of State Warren Christopher, are recommending that he establish normal ties with Hanoi, and a “decision memo” on the subject has been drafted for his approval.

State Department spokesman Nicholas Burns hinted Friday that Clinton may be prepared to exchange ambassadors with Hanoi, citing what he described as a “new level of cooperation” with Vietnam on the MIA and POW issue.

But veterans and family groups reject such claims, contending that Vietnam has not lived up to the demands for an accounting that Clinton had set as a condition for normal relations.

These groups have been increasingly active since word spread last month that Christopher had recommended to Clinton that, after 20 years, the time for normal relations had arrived.

The National Alliance of Families, based in Washington state, admonished its members last week to “Call, telegraph or write the president now! We must stop normalization. If you already have called and written, do it again and again.”

The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, headquartered here, also is active in the campaign.

League executive director Ann Mills Griffith, asked about her battle plan, said Friday, “Truth. We’ve got the facts.” She said group members will be taking their case to Congress. John Sommer, executive director of the Washington office of the American Legion, said his group plans a similar strategy.

If Clinton goes along with the recommendation, Republicans likely will make it a campaign issue. House Speaker Newt Gingrich told CNN Friday, “This is not the time to be cozying up to dictators.” Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan, said at a news conference in St. Paul, Minn., “I don’t share President Clinton’s views on normalizing relations with Vietnam.”

However, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a former Vietnam war prisoner, favors normal ties, as do U.S. business groups.

MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: U.S. AND VIETNAM: A SLOW THAW President Clinton is expected to sign an order opening full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. A selected chronology of U.S.-Vietnam relations since early in the Vietnam War: May 1964: U.S. imposes trade embargo on North Vietnam following attacks on South Vietnam March 1965: First U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam January 1973: U.S., North Vietnam sign Paris cease-fire agreements, ending U.S. combat role March 1973: Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam April 1975: Saigon falls to communist forces; U.S. extends trade embargo to all of Vietnam February 1982: Vietnam agrees to talks on American MIAs September 1988: First joint field investigations of MIAs April 1992: President Bush eases embargo by permitting sales for humanitarian projects December 1992: Bush allows U.S. companies to open offices, sign contracts, do feasibility studies in Vietman July 1993: President Clinton ends U.S. opposition to settlement of Vietnam’s debts to International Monetary Fund February 1994: Clinton lifts trade embargo

Sources: News reports, World Book Knight-Ridder Tribune

This sidebar appeared with the story: U.S. AND VIETNAM: A SLOW THAW President Clinton is expected to sign an order opening full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. A selected chronology of U.S.-Vietnam relations since early in the Vietnam War: May 1964: U.S. imposes trade embargo on North Vietnam following attacks on South Vietnam March 1965: First U.S. combat troops arrive in South Vietnam January 1973: U.S., North Vietnam sign Paris cease-fire agreements, ending U.S. combat role March 1973: Last U.S. combat troops leave Vietnam April 1975: Saigon falls to communist forces; U.S. extends trade embargo to all of Vietnam February 1982: Vietnam agrees to talks on American MIAs September 1988: First joint field investigations of MIAs April 1992: President Bush eases embargo by permitting sales for humanitarian projects December 1992: Bush allows U.S. companies to open offices, sign contracts, do feasibility studies in Vietman July 1993: President Clinton ends U.S. opposition to settlement of Vietnam’s debts to International Monetary Fund February 1994: Clinton lifts trade embargo

Sources: News reports, World Book Knight-Ridder Tribune



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