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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hanoi Hopeful on New U.S. Relations

HANOI, Vietnam -- Vietnamese looked forward Wednesday to close cooperation with the United States on issues ranging from missing soldiers to trade and technology now that their former enemy has extended diplomatic recognition.

Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet told the nation in a rare televised address that he hopes for exchanges in trade, science and technology "on the basis of equality and mutual respect for each other's independence.''

Deputy Foreign Minister Le Mai, speaking at a news conference, said, "We will implement that full relationship in a comprehensive way by immediately starting talks on establishing normal trade relations.''

Both men also pledged to continue working with the United States to clarify the fate of 2,202 American servicemen and civilians still missing from the war.

Mai said many Vietnamese feel compassion for the families of missing Americans because they have been unable to recover the remains of about 300,000 Vietnamese war dead.

"More than any persons in the world we are fully understanding of the suffering and sorrow of those American families,'' he said. "Therefore, cooperation is needed for the fullest possible accounting.''

Among those whose bodies were never found are Kiet's first wife and two small children, killed when their boat came under U.S. fire in southern Vietnam in 1966. The prime minister rarely mentions his loss and did not Wednesday, even while promising his government's cooperation on American MIAs.

The U.S. move also seemed likely to ease lingering tensions among Vietnamese who fought on opposite sides in the war, including the more than 1 million South Vietnamese who fled to the United States.

"The latest developments in Vietnam-U.S. relations will enable the Vietnamese community in the United States to get closer to their homeland,'' Kiet said.

Mai said Vietnam is willing to enter into a dialogue with the United States on a wide range of issues, including human rights, although he indicated that Vietnam's adherence to communism is not up for negotiation.

"I believe that the choice of political system is the right of every nation,'' he said.

Ordinary Vietnamese said they also look forward to all kinds of new exchanges with the United States.

Vu Dinh Cu, chairman of the government Committee for Science, Technology and Environment and vice president of the Vietnam-USA Society said: "We think some scientists from your country can come to Vietnam and lecture at our universities.''