Human Rights Stressed in Bush’s Meeting with Vietnamese Leader

By Stephen Kaufman
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - The United States wants good relations with Vietnam, and Vietnam’s commitment to human rights is important in deepening the bilateral relationship, President Bush told visiting Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet.

In remarks after their June 22 meeting in Washington, Bush said he was impressed by Vietnam’s growing economy and said the two countries enjoy good economic relations.

“I also made it very clear that in order for relations to grow deeper … it's important for our friends to have a strong commitment to human rights and freedom and democracy.  I explained my strong belief that societies are enriched when people are allowed to express themselves freely or worship freely,” Bush said.

Triet is his country’s first head of state to visit the White House since the military conflict between the United States and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s.

Bush thanked the Vietnamese leader for his continued cooperation on determining the whereabouts and fate of American prisoners of war, and soldiers listed as “missing in action” as a result of the conflict.

“I saw firsthand that cooperation when I was in Vietnam.  We are now extending our search to missing remains in some of the coastal regions of Vietnam,” Bush said.

He also said the U.S. Congress has passed legislation authorizing funds to help the Vietnamese people recover from exposure to dioxin, a contaminant in the herbicide “Agent Orange” used by U.S. forces.

“[A]s well, we're firmly committed to helping Vietnam in the battle against HIV/AIDS,” Bush said.

Triet said in addition to intensified cooperation on economic issues, as evidenced by the signing of a Trade Investment Framework Agreement, the two countries also have expanded cooperation in areas such as humanitarian issues, technology, education and training.

He said he and Bush continue to have differences on issues related to religion and human rights, but had a “direct and open exchange of views” on those issues during their meeting.

Triet said during his visit to the United States he had met many American business representatives and private citizens and witnessed “a warmth of feelings toward Vietnam … that demonstrates the desire for friendship between our two peoples.”

He said the Vietnamese also desire friendship, adding he hopes Vietnamese Americans “will continue to serve as a bridge of friendship between our two countries.”

A transcript of remarks by Bush and Triet can be found at the White House Web site.