Vietnam, US begin Agent Orange Clean-up

June 22nd, 2011 - by admin

Reuters & Mail & Guardian & The Bangkok Post – 2011-06-22 12:30:43

Vietnam, US begin Agent Orange Clean-up
John Ruwitch / Reuters & Mail & Guardian

BBC & ReutersVideo

DANANG (June 17, 2011) — Vietnam and the United States took the first step towards cleaning up Agent Orange contamination on Friday, a development that the top US diplomat in the country said was one of the most significant between the two countries.

A ribbon-cutting near a barren, sun-baked corner of the Danang airport grounds where the defoliant was stored before being sprayed from US warplanes during the 1960s and early 1970s held symbolic meaning for a relationship that has come under the spotlight amid renewed tensions in the South China Sea.

US-Vietnam ties have blossomed since diplomatic relations were established 16 years ago and steps to resolve legacy issues from the war have formed a cornerstone of progress.

“I think it’s fair to say that dioxin contamination and Agent Orange was one of the single most neuralgic issues in the US-Vietnam relationship,” said US Charge d’Affairs Virgina Palmer.

Talking Past Each Other
The US military sprayed up to 12-million gallons of the defoliant between 1961 and 1971 to try to make it easier to fight in Vietnam’s dense jungles.

For years, Hanoi and Washington talked past each other on questions of compensation for Vietnamese with health problems that the Vietnamese government said resulted from exposure to Agent Orange. But five years ago the embassy began to shift the focus to cleaning up dioxin hotspots, clearing the path for swift headway on what had become the biggest remaining war-era issue.

The US Congress appropriated an initial $3-million in 2007 for the effort and the figure has since leapt to $32-million. The progress has been “hugely important and has had very nice repercussions for the rest of the relationship”, said Palmer.

Trade has galloped from almost nothing in the mid-1990s to $18-billion a year, mostly in the form of exports to America, which help keep Vietnam’s trade deficit in check. Political and military ties are also improving and US Navy ships visit the former foe at least annually.

Vietnam Agent Orange Cleanup Starts: US
a href=””>The Bangkok Post

(June 17, 2011) — The first step of a US-funded operation to clean up Agent Orange contamination at a wartime American base in Vietnam began Friday, officials said, almost four decades after the end of the conflict. Authorities started by removing unexploded ordnance at the site, part of the grounds of an airport in the central Vietnamese city of Danang, having identified it as a “hot spot” of potentially cancer-causing dioxin. “This effort is a key first step… to clean up the dioxin-contaminated soil and sediment at the airport,” the US embassy said in a statement.

The project will remove dioxin from 29 hectares (71.6 acres) of soil “that can be used for economic and commercial activities, and reduce human exposure to the chemical and potential health impacts,” Vietnamese Major General Do Minh Tuan said in the release.

During the Vietnam War US aircraft flying from bases including Danang sprayed Agent Orange and other herbicides, which contained dioxin, to strip trees of foliage, in a bid to deprive communist forces of cover and food.

Both sides said the cleanup effort demonstrated cooperation between the two former enemies, whose relationship has grown across a wide range of areas since the restoration of diplomatic relations 16 years ago.

The embassy said the Danang works will cost more than $32 million, which the US is funding in its entirety, and that both sides hoped to complete the project by October 2013. The United States is focusing its help on Danang, at Vietnam’s request. Experts have identified two other former US air bases as “hot spots” of dioxin contamination.

The UN last year announced a $5 million project to reduce contamination at the Bien Hoa airport hot spot near Ho Chi Minh City.

More than three million Vietnamese have suffered the effects of wartime herbicides, a Vietnamese doctor testified before the US Congress. A Vietnamese victims’ group has said the US military sprayed about 80 million litres (21 million gallons) of herbicides, much of it Agent Orange, over southern Vietnam during a 10-year period.

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