1998 Congressional Hearings
Intelligence and Security






MARCH 10, 1998

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to have the opportunity to join Assistant
Secretary Taft in speaking today on the situation of the Montagnard
people in Vietnam. I would like to put the situation of the
Montagnards in the context of our broader relationship with Vietnam.
But first, I would like to emphasize to you the seriousness with which
we view the situation confronting Montagnards in Vietnam.

The sacrifices and suffering endured by thousands of Montagnards who
fought alongside Americans in Vietnam will never be forgotten in this
country. We recognize that the cost to the Montagnards of their
participation in the war was devastating and that it is something we
cannot and will not forget. We recognize, too, that living conditions
in the central highlands are much more severe than in other parts of
Vietnam and that Montagnards, in particular, have limited access to
necessities such as medical care and education.

We will continue to press the Vietnamese government to issue exit
permits to all Montagnards who are eligible to emigrate to the U.S.
through refugee programs such as ODP and ROVR and normal immigrant
visas. In that connection, let me underscore our conviction that
granting a Jackson-Vanik waiver in response to measurable progress on
the ground will promote the objectives of the Jackson-Vanik
legislation by leading to freer emigration from Vietnam.

Our efforts to move forward on Montagnard and other emigration issues
are part of a broad agenda with Vietnam. The first and most important
item on that agenda is obtaining an accounting of the missing from the
Vietnam War. We continue to receive excellent cooperation from the
Vietnamese government, which has permitted the normalization of
relations in other areas. Obtaining the fullest possible accounting
for POW/MIAs remains our highest priority in relations with Vietnam.
Normalization in other areas has not lessened the centrality of
POW/MIA accounting to the relationship, and every high level USG
official to visit Vietnam has stressed this point.

The presence of Ambassador Peterson, a former POW, in Hanoi is in
itself a symbol of the importance of the POW/MIA issue to Americans,
and his energy and commitment to the effort ensure that we will do our
best to continue to get results. Sustaining progress on POW/MIA
accounting will remain our highest priority objective in the future.

We have important national interests at play in Vietnam. We believe it
is in our interest to promote Vietnam's economic prosperity and
integration into the regional and international structures that
enhance regional stability and free trade. Among these are our
dialogue on human rights, and our growing cooperation on
counter-narcotics. Economic normalization, which we are working to
advance, encompasses a range of measures to promote trade and
investment so that American businessmen can take advantage of the
considerable potential in this dynamic and emerging market.

As with POW/MIA accounting, our contacts with Vietnam on migration
issues predate normalization. As Assistant Secretary Taft can explain,
certain minority groups such as the Montagnards have encountered
obstacles in emigrating from Vietnam. Nevertheless, Vietnam's record
in permitting free emigration has improved considerably since 1975.
The Orderly Departure Program (ODP) has been a solid success. Over
480,000 Vietnamese have emigrated to the U.S. through ODP. Many of
these are of special interest to the U.S., such as former detainees in
reeducation camps. Despite this progress to date, I would like to
state unequivocally that we will continue to press the Vietnamese
government to provide fair treatment to all who are eligible for
emigration to the U.S., including the Montagnards.

The question of free emigration is related closely, as you know, to
the waiver of the Jackson-Vanik Amendment. Jackson-Vanik prohibits the
extension of certain U.S. economic benefits to countries that, among
other things, deny their citizens the right or opportunity to
emigrate. The statute authorizes the President to waive the
Jackson-Vanik requirements if doing so will lead to freer emigration
from that country.

We have recommended the President waive the Jackson-Vanik amendment at
this point because of significant improvements over the past year in
Vietnam's processing of exit permits for the Resettlement Opportunity
for Vietnamese Returnees (ROVR) cases. We will continue to monitor its
performance closely, using the prospect of renewal of the waiver to
press for further improvements in freedom of emigration. In this way,
the waiver will support the objectives of the Jackson-Vanik
legislation, promoting freedom of emigration from Vietnam.

A waiver of Jackson-Vanik is the next step in economic normalization,
a goal of both our countries However, a waiver of Jackson-Vanik does
not signal that we are ready to grant MFN status to Vietnam. MFN will
require completion of a bilateral trade agreement and approval of the
agreement by both houses of Congress.

A Jackson-Vanik waiver would, however, remove a key impediment to
extending export promotion and trade and investment support programs
to Vietnam, including the Export-Import Bank, Overseas Private
Investment Corporation (OPIC), USDA PL-480 and GSM export credit
programs and Maritime Administration Title XI programs. Without these
programs, U.S. companies are often at a disadvantage in competing with
foreign firms in the Vietnamese market.

Associated waivers of Foreign Assistance Act provisions are
prerequisites for most U.S. assistance to Vietnam. An exception is
humanitarian assistance to Vietnam, which has been provided for
prosthetics and rehabilitation services to war victims and to
displaced children and orphans. A broader U.S. assistance program,
among other things, will help the U.S. influence Vietnam's progres
toward an open economy. It will focus largely on the transfer of
knowledge to serve as a catalyst for further structural and
institutional change.

Human rights is an important component of our relationship with
Vietnam. We have made clear to Vietnamese leaders that progress in
this area will be necessary for our relationship to fully develop.
Although there has been a modicum of improvement in the area of
personal freedoms, including reduced government interference in daily
life, Vietnam's overall human rights record has been poor. There have
been credible reports that local Vietnamese officials have denied
ethnic minorities, including the Montagnards, access to education,
employment and other services.

We have initiated a formal human rights dialogue in which we have
conveyed our concerns about human rights in both general and specific
human rights cases. Secretary Albright raised these issues prominently
with Vietnamese leaders during her visit last June to Vietnam. The
status of ethnic minorities and specifically Montagnards is a subject
we will continue to raise in the context of our human rights dialogue.

Vietnam has historical interests in the region, particularly in
relation to its neighbors in Cambodia, Laos, China and in the South
China Sea. Dialogue among the U.S., Vietnam and its neighbors can
contribute to the peaceful resolution of conflicting interests.
Vietnam's membership in ASEAN and APEC, its participation in the ASEAN
Regional Forum, and its growing ties to regional and world markets
exemplify the new constructive role that it is beginning to play. This
is a role that we should encourage. By developing bilateral ties as we
are doing, we can encourage Vietnam to behave responsibly in the
region and the world.

Let me conclude by saying that nothing is more important in our
relations with Vietnam than meeting our commitments -- to the families
of our POW/MIAs and to those who served beside us. We will do
everything in our power to live up to these important

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