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Reagan Praises Vietnam, Laos for Renewed Aid in MIA Search

July 20, 1986|United Press International

WASHINGTON — President Reagan thanked the Communist governments of Vietnam and Laos on Saturday for renewed efforts in helping to find remains of Americans missing in action in Southeast Asia, and he promised to apply all U.S. resources to the search.

At the same time, however, Reagan warned families of the 2,434 servicemen still missing against seeking "easy solutions."

In his weekly radio address from the Oval Office, Reagan praised the heroism of the MIAs and their relatives, many of whom gathered in Washington for the 17th annual conference of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia.

"There have been steps forward," he said, citing new cooperation from Laos and Vietnam in helping U.S. teams search plane crash sites for bones or identification tags.

The efforts, Reagan said, "are bringing results, but many questions remain."

Appreciation to Hanoi

"I'm glad to report that the Laos government has pledged to answer these questions, and I look forward to an improving relationship and the acceleration of our joint efforts," he said. "I also want to express appreciation for the increasing cooperation of the government of Vietnam in the humanitarian quest.

"Other differences must not be allowed to interfere in our effort to resolve this issue. We must continue to go forward. It is the only responsible path, and it is in the interest of both our peoples."

Last year, Vietnam agreed to cooperate in the search for remains and any live MIAs, but it suspended the program after the United States bombed Libya last April. In recent weeks, Vietnam has resumed the effort.

Response by Democrat

In the Democratic response to Reagan's address, Rep. Stephen J. Solarz (D-N.Y.) said the Democratic Party stands with Reagan "in his determination to achieve the fullest possible accounting of the tragic fate that has befallen our fellow Americans."

Solarz also took the occasion to warn against repeating the Vietnam experience in Central America, where the Reagan Administration supports rebels, known as contras , in their war against the leftist Sandinista government of Nicaragua.

"By defining the Sandinistas as a major threat to American security, the President is setting the stage for the introduction of American combat forces into Nicaragua," Solarz said.

"For now, the Administration is content to arm the contras. But what will happen when it becomes clear--as it surely will--that the contras cannot overthrow the Sandinista regime? Will we then be trapped by our overheated rhetoric?

"Will the President tell us then that our only options are to send in the Marines or to surrender to a Marxist takeover of Central America?"

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