Vietnam welcomed Thursday a new U.S. move toward resuming diplomatic ties, but urged Washington not to link normalization with developments in Cambodia and the issue of missing American soldiers.
Secretary of State James Baker said in Paris Wednesday that Washington was ready to take steps toward normalizing relations with Hanoi now that Cambodia's warring factions had reached a peace settlement."We think it's a positive position and we welcome it," Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Le Mai said in Hanoi.
Baker suggested the United States would follow a phased plan for normalization that it proposed in April, but Le Mai told a news conference that international developments had outpaced Washington's "road map" plan.
"The realities of life are moving faster than the road map," he said.
Analysts say the U.S. plan would mean Washington would not normalize ties with Hanoi for at least two years, since it would first require Cambodia to hold elections, create a new parliament and rewrite the constitution.
Baker said the pace of normalization would depend on Hanoi's progress in resolving the fate of American servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War.
Le Mai said normalization should not be linked to the MIA issue, but Hanoi would continue working with Washington to resolve it.
Le Mai described a meeting in Paris Wednesday between Baker and Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Manh Cam as very positive, but declined to give details.
Baker said Washington's move was part of an effort to "turn a page on the Vietnam War," which ended with the defeat of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese government in 1975.
The United States withdrew its military forces in humiliation in 1973 after a decade of fighting in which 55,000 American soldiers died.
Washington has since isolated Vietnam with a tough embargo that denies Hanoi normal trade with the West, development funds from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and other international lenders, and transfers of high technology.