Rep. Pitts asks President to Push Vietnam reforms, Take Vets to Nation
June 17, 2005
Washington -Calling for a greater engagement with Vietnam , U.S. Congressman Joe Pitts (R, PA-16) this week sent a letter to President George W. Bush. The letter asks the President to:
1. Use open dialogue to push for greater political and economic reforms in Vietnam when the Prime Minister visits Washington next week.
2. Take a group of Vietnam War veterans along with him when he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum Summit in Vietnam next year in order to continue the healing process over that bitter conflict.
Congressman Pitts is a Vietnam veteran having flown 116 combat missions as a crewmember of a B-52 bomber. He visited Vietnam in January 2003 as part of a tour of several Southeast Asian nations to monitor human rights conditions and meet with public officials. More about his trip: http://www.house.gov/pitts/initiatives/humanrights/countries/vietnam.htm.
The text of the letter follows.
June 14, 2005
Dear President Bush:
As we look ahead to the June 21, 2005 visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to Washington , I would encourage you to use this opportunity to advance the healing process between our two countries and urge Vietnam to become a full participant in the community of nations.
This is an historic visit not only because it is the first trip by a Vietnamese prime minister to the United States , but also because it marks the tenth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Thirty years after the end of the Vietnam War, there are still those on both sides who harbor bitterness and live with the scars. Now is the time to take critical steps to bring the Vietnamese and American people together, and I would urge you to bring a group of Vietnam veterans with you when you travel to Hanoi in 2006 for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.
It is my hope that you will also encourage Vietnam to fully move into the world community as many of the former Soviet republics have done: transitioning away from decades of Communist rule, encouraging free market economies and the growth of democratic institutions, liberalizing trade practices, and establishing protections for human rights and religious freedom. The examples of countries such as the Baltics, Ukraine , and the Central Asian states, show that America embraces, rather than exploits, those nations who move forward in good faith.
Vietnam has already taken steps to achieve these goals, and the next, and final, step toward full normalization would be granting permanent normal trade relations status to Vietnam . This step, which would require congressional approval, will almost certainly be considered in the context of negotiating Vietnam 's accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO), which the United States supports, and which could occur in next year.
Closer relations with Vietnam will put the United States in a better position to encourage democratic and human rights reforms in that country and to counter China 's growing influence in the East Asian region. Finally, freer trade will benefit both our economies. Please know that there are those in Congress who stand ready to assist you in this matter, and thank you in advance for your consideration.
Joseph R. Pitts
Member of Congress