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Lifting Vietnam Trade Embargo

January 15, 1994

* I agree with your editorial, "Vietnam Trade: Time for the Leap" (Jan. 5). It is time to end the U.S. economic embargo of Vietnam.

Our government initiated the embargo against North Vietnam in 1964 and against the entire country in 1975. It has been kept in place since then ostensibly to punish its government for its intransigence and non-cooperation with the MIA issue. Our current policy needs to be revised not only because it hasn't worked but also because it is becoming obvious that the Vietnamese are being as forthcoming and cooperative as can reasonably be expected.

On Jan. 6 the United States launched its biggest search ever in Vietnam for Americans missing in action. The Vietnamese have turned over uncounted tons of evidence, records, personal effects and remains of the missing. They have allowed continuous and thorough investigations of all air crash sites and so-called "live sightings" reports.

There was a time when the U.S.-led embargo really hurt Vietnam. That is no longer the case. The rest of the world long ago disregarded the embargo and began to make large-scale investment and trade with Vietnam a high priority.

I traveled to Vietnam this last summer as part of a delegation of Vietnam veterans and others interested in healing the wounds of that war. We came away from that experience convinced that the people there bear us no ill will. They want to put the bad times behind us--they want to be friends. What made me sad was the realization that while the embargo seems to have had little impact on the way that their government makes its decisions, it nevertheless has an injurious effect on the people.

Without question, Vietnam has a long way to go toward opening up or liberalizing its society. What seems most obvious is that the surest road to democratic reform there lies in the breaking down of the barriers to the exchange of culture and information, which will come as a natural result of commerce once things are normalized.


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