Sr. L. Gen. Hoang Xuan Chien (left) and Dr. Ely Ratner

During the dialogue, the two head delegates evaluated that on the basis of the outcomes of the previous dialogue in 2022, such fields as settlement of war legacy, U.N. peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, navigation security, defense industry, cyber security, military medicine have been carried out as planned and reaped positive results. Among them, the cooperation in addressing war legacy has continued to be a pillar and a bright spot in the bilateral relations, helping build trust and strengthen mutual understanding between the two sides, raising the significance of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of Vietnam - U.S. comprehensive partnership (2013 - 2023).

On behalf of the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defense (MND), Gen. Chien thanked the U.S. side for officially increasing the non-refundable aid for the Bien Hoa airport dioxin cleanup project from USD 183 million to USD 300 million according to the Limited Scope Grant Agreement (LSGA) on the project signed on September 7, 2023. It is an important source to complete the first phase of the project.

The Vietnamese general confirmed that Vietnam will continue to create favorable conditions for the two sides’ cooperation in searching for U.S. servicemen missing in action (MIA) in the most effective manner. He noted that the year 2023 is a milestone year in MIA cooperation since the two sides celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Vietnamese Office for Seeking Missing Persons (VNOSMP) and the 35th anniversary of the joint operations to search for MIA.

The two officials emphasized the role and importance of Vietnam and the U.S. within the cooperation framework of ADMM+ and their continuity of being ADMM+’s active members. Gen. Chien highly appreciated the U.S.’s sending of delegation to the Competency Evaluation for Prospective Peacekeeper Program (CEPPP) under the ADMM+ Experts’ Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations Cycle 4 in the 2021-2023 period, co-hosted by Vietnam and Japan, contributing to the event’s success.

Regarding the future cooperation orientations, both officials were unanimous to continuously and effectively implement defense cooperation contents agreed by senior leaders of the two countries and defense ministries and according to agreements and documents signed earlier. Their cooperation will focus on all level delegation exchange, effective maintenance of present dialogue and consultation mechanisms, military medicine, cyber security, defense industry, U.N. peacekeeping operations, and settlement of war legacy. They also agreed to support each other at regional multilateral forums, particularly within ADMM+, contributing to peace, stability, and development in the region and the world.

An overview of the dialogue

Gen. Chien asked the U.S side to further support Vietnam in overcoming consequences of the war with priority given to speeding up the Bien Hoa Airport dioxin cleanup project which  needs an addition of USD 150-200 million to treat all dioxin-contaminated land there.

The two sides will pro-actively carry out cooperation contents on war legacy settlement, communications activities on Vietnam - U.S. ties on the work, and the signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) on search and collection of remains of Vietnamese soldiers who died or went missing in the war, as well as expand the scale and scope of assisting people with disabilities and victims of dioxin to other provinces and cities in Vietnam.

To make the cooperation effective, Gen. Chien suggested the two sides sign an MoU on settling war legacy in Vietnam in the spirit of the joint statement on lifting the Vietnam - U.S. relations to the comprehensive strategic partnership for peace, cooperation and sustainable development.

The U.S. head delegate acknowledged all suggestions from the Vietnamese side and said he would discuss with the Congress to consider finding additional support sources for the dioxin detoxification project at Bien Hoa Airport.

Also at the dialogue, the two sides exchanged views on regional and global situations and other issues of common concern. They spoke highly of ASEAN’s role and status and ASEAN-led mechanisms. They underlined the importance of ensuring security and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea (South China Sea). Gen. Chien stressed that Vietnam is consistent in the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, friendship; multilateralism, diversification; has pursued a “Four Nos” defense policy. In the East Sea issue, Vietnam's consistent viewpoint is to resolve all disagreements by peaceful means on the basis of international laws, including UNCLOS 1982.

Gen. Chien hands over missing U.S. servicemen’s keepsakes to Dr. Ely Ratner.

On the occasion, Gen. Chien invited the Assistant Secretary of Defense, other leaders of the U.S. Department of Defense, and U.S. defense enterprises to participate in the Vietnam International Defense Expo 2024.

At the end of the dialogue, the two co-chairs signed the minutes of the dialogue. The Vietnamese head delegate handed over some war keepsakes of U.S. servicemen missing in action in the war in Vietnam to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Earlier, in the framework of the working visit to the U.S, the Vietnamese delegation paid a courtesy call on Senator Jeff Merkley, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies.

At the reception, Senator Jeff Merkley welcomes the delegation to the Vietnam - U.S. Defense Policy Dialogue 2023. He laid stress on the importance of the cooperation in war legacy settlement in the two countries’ reconciliation, healing and trust building process, considering it one of the U.S.’s top priorities in the coming time. He said that in his capacity, he will contribute to boosting the relationship with Vietnam in all fields, including defense cooperation.

Gen. Chien thanked the host for the reception. He stressed that Vietnam always considers the U.S. one of its important partners in defense policy and is willing to enhance ties with the country on the basis of respecting independence, sovereignty, political institutions, for the benefit of the two countries, for peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.

He thanked the U.S. Congress for the attention to and support for the bilateral defense cooperation, and hoped for its further assistance for the ties in the time to come, particularly the Bien Hoa Airport project, the MoU on war legacy settlement, and support for disabled persons and dioxin victims.

Senator Jeff Merkley confirmed his support for enhancing the two countries’ ties on addressing war consequences.

Translated by Mai Huong