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Senator Cites MIA Efforts by Vietnam

June 02, 1993| From Times Wire Services

HANOI — U.S. Sen. John Kerry on Tuesday reported "very special efforts" by the Vietnamese to help the United States resolve the fate of more than 2,000 servicemen listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War.

After a two-day trip by Congress members and veterans to assess the process of accounting for U.S. servicemen, Kerry (D-Mass.) said he will report privately to President Clinton on the degree of Vietnamese cooperation.

But he refused to say whether he will recommend that Clinton ease or lift the economic embargo that Washington has enforced against Hanoi since 1964.

At a ceremony in Washington on Monday at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Clinton said his Administration is pressing Hanoi to provide a full accounting "not only because it is the central outstanding issue in our relationship with Vietnam but because it is a central commitment made by the American government to our people. And I intend to keep it."

Clinton also said he has ordered the government to declassify nearly all records related to the servicemen.

The congressional delegation met Tuesday with former North Vietnamese Gen. Tran Van Quang, who has denied writing a document indicating that Vietnam was holding more U.S. prisoners in the 1970s than it publicly admitted.

Quang said he knew nothing about U.S. prisoners, Kerry said.

The report, allegedly signed by Quang, was found in a Russian archive and has stirred controversy over whether the Vietnamese have been cooperating fully in the search for missing soldiers.

The trip to Vietnam brought back strong personal memories. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) visited the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison where he spent six years in Vietnamese captivity.

"I went this morning and saw one of my old cells," he said. "My strongest recollection was of so many wonderful friendships formed in those difficult circumstances.

"I think I can go back and get a room some day . . . if it's a five-star hotel like they say it will be," he said. A hotel is planned there.

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