Q. What diplomatic steps has the Clinton Administration taken in the months leading to the decision to normalize relations with Vietnam?
A. In February, 1994, the United States lifted economic sanctions against Vietnam, and in January the two countries signed an agreement establishing liaison offices in each other's capitals. On June 14, Secretary of State Warren Christopher recommended that the United States restore full diplomatic ties. The first step toward re-establishing official links was taken more than four years ago when the Bush Administration gave the Vietnamese government a plan for phased normalization of relations and lifting of the trade embargo.
Q. Why are Vietnamese officials eager for full diplomatic relations with the United States? What are the likely benefits for Vietnam?
A. The most significant gain for Vietnam, an impoverished nation, is certain to be economic. Vietnamese officials ultimately hope to be granted most-favored-nation trading status, which would allow Vietnamese goods to be sold here with the low tariffs reserved for America's allies. Some Vietnamese living in the United States hope the action will also improve the quality of life in Vietnam and eventually lead to democracy.
Q. What does the decision mean for trade?
A. Normalized relations are eagerly awaited by entrepreneurs in both countries. Full diplomatic recognition will have considerable significance for U.S. companies, clearing the way for them to obtain U.S. government-sponsored financing and insurance to help them do business in Vietnam. Vietnamese businesses also hope to benefit, especially if Vietnam ultimately achieves most-favored-nation trade status.
Q. What does it mean for the MIA issue?
A. This has been the major obstacle to re-establishing relations, but the Clinton Administration argues that Hanoi in recent years has intensified its efforts to account for missing Americans, helping teams of U.S. investigators search for remains. About 1,600 Americans are still listed as missing in Vietnam. Since Clinton took office, 167 sets of remains have been returned.
Q. What groups make up the major opposition in the United States to the Clinton Administration's move?
A. They include: groups that believe the Vietnamese government has not done enough to account for missing U.S. servicemen; a number of Vietnamese who fled their country after the war and are now living in the United States, including many in Little Saigon, and some veterans organizations, including the nation's largest, the American Legion.
Q. Why do many Vietnamese in the United States oppose this restoration of diplomatic ties?
A. Many former South Vietnamese citizens believe the United States should delay full diplomatic links until the Vietnamese government enacts more democratic reforms, frees its remaining political prisoners and accounts more precisely for missing Americans.
Compiled by Times staff writer Rebecca Trounson from Times staff and wire reports.