Press Releases

(Washington, D.C.) -- The following is a statement by U.S. Senator John McCain regarding normalization of diplomatic relations with Vietnam: "I support the President's decision today to restore full diplomatic relations with Vietnam. This would not be an easy decision for any President to make. President Clinton has shown courage and honor in his resolve to do so. "President Clinton, like Presidents Bush and Reagan before him, took very seriously his pledge to the American people that the first priority in our relationship with Vietnam would be the accounting for Americans missing in action in Vietnam. "Given the importance of that commitment, President Clinton insisted that Vietnam cooperate with our accounting efforts to such an extent that normalization was clearly justified and that "tangible progress" toward the fullest possible accounting be clear enough to assure us that the prospects for continued cooperation were excellent. "Vietnam has shown that level of cooperation. The President has kept his commitment. Normalizing relations with our former enemy is the right thing to do. "In 1991, President Bush proposed a "roadmap" for improving our relations with Vietnam. Under its provisions, Vietnam was required to take unilateral, bilateral and multilateral steps to help us account for our missing. Vietnam's cooperation has been excellent for some time now, and has increased since the President lifted our trade embargo against Vietnam in 1994. "That view is shared by virtually every American official, military and civilian, involved in the accounting process, from the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Forces in the Pacific to the enlisted man excavating crash sites in remote Vietnamese jungles. It is also shared by General John Vessey who served three presidents as Special Emissary to Vietnam for POW/MIA Affairs, as capable and honorable a man as has ever worn the uniform of the United States. "It is mostly my faith in the service of these good men and women that has convinced me that Vietnam's cooperation warrants the normalization of our relations under the terms of the roadmap. It would be injurious to the credibility of the United States and beneath the dignity of a great nation to evade commitments which we freely undertook. "I should also note that Admiral Jeremiah Denton, my acting Senior Ranking Officer at the Hanoi Hilton and a courageous resister, as well as my dear friend Ev Alvarez, the longest held POW in Vietnam, join me and many other former POWs in supporting the restoration of diplomatic relations. "Other factors make the case for full diplomatic relations even stronger. Increasingly, the United States and Vietnam have a shared strategic concern that can be better addressed by an improvement in our relations. "I am not advocating the containment of China. Nor do I think such an ambitious and complex strategic goal could be achieved simply by normalizing relations with Vietnam. But Vietnam, which will become a full member of ASEAN later this month, is an increasingly responsible player in Southeast Asian affairs. An economically viable Vietnam, acting in concert with its neighbors, will help the region resist dominance by any one power. That is a development which is clearly in the best interests of the United States. "Human rights progress in Vietnam should also be better served by restoring relations with that country. The Vietnamese have already developed complex relations with the rest of the free world. Instead of vainly trying to isolate Vietnam, the United States should test the proposition that greater exposure to Americans will render Vietnam more susceptible to the influence of our values. "Vietnam's human rights record needs substantial improvement. We should make good use of better relations with the Vietnamese to help advance in that country a decent respect for the rights of man. "Finally, the people of Arizona expect me to act in the best interests of the nation. We have looked back in anger at Vietnam for too long. I cannot allow whatever resentments I incurred during my time in Vietnam to hold me from doing what is so clearly my duty. I believe it is my duty to encourage this country to build from the losses and the hopes of our tragic war in Vietnam a better peace for both the American and the Vietnamese people. By his action today, the President has helped bring us closer to that worthy goal. I strongly commend him for having done so." # # #