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CNN Today

U.S. Defense Secretary Warmly Received on Goodwill Tour of Vietnam

Aired March 14, 2000 - 2:27 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Defense Secretary William Cohen completes his two-day visit to Vietnam today. He says the history- making trip will pave the way to better relations with the former enemy.

CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre is travelling with Secretary Cohen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The imposing Presidential Palace was the last stop in Defense Secretary William Cohen's unprecedented goodwill tour of Hanoi. There, in the shadow of a massive bust of the former Communist leader Ho Chi Minh, Cohen was warmly praised by the head of a country that more than a quarter of a century ago was at war with the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that your visit to Vietnam at this moment will be a further contribution to the development of relationship between the two countries.

MCINTYRE: Before departing for Ho Chi Minh City, Cohen hosted a luncheon for top Vietnamese military officers, including some decorated for shooting down American pilots during the Vietnam War. But there was no sense of awkwardness, as Cohen and his Vietnamese counterpart traded bouquets.

WILLIAM COHEN, DEFENSE SECRETARY: Thank you for exploring with us areas in which we can move forward to certainly heal the broken places and to become strong friends for the future.

PHAM VAN TRA, VIETNAMESE DEFENSE MINISTER (through translator): A good opportunity for Mr. Secretary and the party to understand the implementation of the Vietnam foreign policy of openness in the spirit of Vietnam be friends with all nations for peace, independence, and development.

MCINTYRE: Cohen's breakthrough visit comes just as Vietnam is preparing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its victory over the U.S.-backed South in 1975. But officials say that painful chapter of American history barely came up. (on camera): U.S. officials are delighted with the reception Cohen has received here in Vietnam and think the time is right for better relations with the former foe. The United States is seeking regional stability and a full accounting of its war dead. Vietnam wants a slice of the booming global economy, and both sides seem to have forgiven, but not forgotten the past.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, Ho Chi Minh City.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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