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Press Conference With Sec. Panetta & Vietnam's DM

By The Pentagon, The Pentagon - June 4, 2012

            (Note:  The defense minister's remarks are provided through interpreter.)

            STAFF:  The press conference on the occasion of the official visit of the -- of the Secretary of Defense of the United States to Vietnam now begins.  I would like to invite the two ministers to the podiums. 

            And now I would like to invite Excellency Phung Quang Thanh, the Minister of Defense of Vietnam, to deliver a speech.

            MINISTER PHUNG QUANG THANH:  Ladies and gentlemen, first of all, I would like to warmly welcome the presence here of all Vietnamese and international press and all the reporters to be here to deliver the news about the visit by Secretary of Defense of the United States, Excellency Mr. Leon Panetta.

            We just had discussions of openness, friendliness, about all mutual concerns, issues about the cooperation and relations between the United States and Vietnam.  And we focused on the solutions to the implementation of the memorandum of understanding, was -- which was signed between the two countries at the end of last year -- the memorandum of understanding, which covers some of the following issues.

            The first one is the exchange of high-ranking dialogues between the two countries.  

            The second area, which is search and rescue, and the third area, which is peacekeeping operations of the United Nations.

            The fourth area, which is the military management.

            And lastly is humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. 

            And besides we have some other issues that we are now working on to further the development, which are firstly the war legacy, and the second area, which is the missing in action of the United States soldiers and Vietnamese soldiers in the war.  And we are now trying to exchange the artifacts of our two sides, however, in order to provide more information to the families of the lost soldiers.  And I would like to take this opportunity today to present to Excellency Mr. Secretary, the three letters which are the three artifacts of the United States soldiers in the war.

            And the two sides will continue to cooperate in the fields of bombs and mines clearings, and the United States will continue to support Vietnam with facilities and technology.  And we will also continue to cooperate in the fields of mitigation of Orange Agent -- (inaudible) -- in the areas of some airports and some areas which were affected in the war.

            So we will continue our cooperation between the Vietnam and the United States in the spirit of -- firstly, in the framework of the memorandum of understanding which was signed between the two countries; secondly, in the nontraditional security efforts; and thirdly is on the war legacy, HADR (humanitarian assistance and disaster relief), and search and rescue.  And we both see the great potential of this cooperation between the two countries.  We will continue our bilateral cooperation in the spirit of mutual benefits, mutual trust, for the benefits of the two countries with respect to the sovereignty of the two countries of peace, stability and cooperation and -- for the peace and stability of the region and the world without doing harm to any third parties.  Thank you.

            STAFF:  Thank you, Mr. Minister. 

            Now I would like to invite the Secretary of Defense of the United States, Excellency Mr. Panetta, to deliver his speech.

            SECRETARY LEON PANETTA:  Thank you very much general, and I want to express my deepest thanks to you and to your entire delegation for hosting me on my first trip to Vietnam as secretary of defense.  I also want to thank the Vietnam for giving me the opportunity yesterday to visit Cam Ranh Bay.  It was a first visit of a secretary -- United States secretary of defense to Cam Ranh Bay since the war.  It gave me the opportunity to visit a United States ship in Cam Ranh Bay, the Robert E. Byrd, which is being repaired by a Vietnamese business located in that area.  And we are very thankful for that level of cooperation that has been provided to our ships.

            It's been only 17 years since the normalization of United States-Vietnamese diplomatic relations, but we have taken some very important steps to advance that relationship in the meeting that we had today.  Our meeting today was an opportunity to take pride in how far we've come over this relatively short period in our bilateral defense relationship, a relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.

            And we discussed some very important steps for the future, like how --

            STAFF:  (In Vietnamese.)

            SEC. PANETTA:  Go ahead. 

            STAFF:  (In Vietnamese.)

            SEC. PANETTA:  How we could improve together the effort to fully implement the 2011 memorandum of understanding to advance our defense cooperation.  We also discussed how the U.S. could work with Vietnam in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) defense ministers group to try to improve the maritime rights of all nations.  And we also discussed our shared commitment to a peaceful and prosperous and secure Asia-Pacific region. 

            As we -- as we move forward, General Thanh and I agree to expand some very important cooperation in five key areas: continued high-level dialogue; maritime security; search-and-rescue operations; peacekeeping operations; and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.  I also noted in our discussion the importance of our establishing an Office of Defense Cooperation to enhance our cooperation in these areas and as a signal of the United States' enduring commitment to this important defense relationship for the future. 

            Let me -- let me also take this opportunity to thank the general and his ministry for their long-standing assistance in efforts to identify and locate the remains of our fallen service members and those missing in action in Vietnam.  In particular, I want to thank him for his offer to open up three new areas for remains recovery. 

            And I want to thank him for the letters that he will be giving me.  And I want him to know that we, in turn, are going to provide a diary that was recovered in war that can, hopefully, be given back to that individual's family. 

            Our commitment to the effort to have an accounting of the efforts of both sides that were involved in the war, I think, is critical to our personnel serving today, to make clear that we stand by our pledge to leave no one behind.  Our continued progress in this area, as well as other legacies of war, reflects, I think, without question the growing maturity of our relationship between the United States and Vietnam.

            I want the general to know and the people of Vietnam to know that we will, in the United States, do everything possible to continue to work together to achieve our shared objectives and our common goals.  I believe that the United States and Vietnam can build a better future, not only for our people but for the entire Asia-Pacific region.

            Thank you.  (Applause.)

            STAFF:  Thank you very much, Excellency Secretary Leon Panetta.

            I would like to invite Excellency General Phung Quang Thanh to hand over the artifacts of the war to Excellency Secretary Panetta.  (Applause.)

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