Summit ponders lessons of VN War

US State Secretary John Kerry delivered a keynote address at the Việt Nam War Summit at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin, Texas, late on Wednesday.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (Right) speaks with historian and filmmaker Ken Burns -- who is about to release an 18-hour retrospective about the Vietnam War -- about the past and future of the U.S.-Vietnam relationship while addressing the audience at the Vietnam War Summit held on April 27, 2016, at the LBJ Presidential Library at the University of Texas at Austin.

Speaking to an audience of nearly 1,000 war veterans, politicians, journalists covering the Việt Nam War and professionals, he said an important lesson of the Việt Nam War is that Americans should put themselves in the shoes of other people and “see their country as they see their country”. In other words, he said, “We cannot look at other countries and see them only through an American lens.”

The official noted “the incredible openness of the Vietnamese people, who helped us search for the remains of our fallen troops even as the vast majority of theirs, a million strong probably, would never be found.”

He said the process of reconciliation is not about forgetting because “if we forget, we cease to learn.”

Kerry added that relations between the US and Việt Nam have changed drastically since they normalised ties 20 years ago.

While the number of US visitors to Việt Nam has risen from 60,000 to half of a million, nearly 19,000 Vietnamese students are pursuing their studies in the US, up from 800. Bilateral trade revenue has also rocketed from US$400 million to $45 billion.

He also acknowledged the differences between the two countries, but “the difference is that we actually talk about them.”

The US and Việt Nam are enhancing cooperation, especially in security issues and in the army-to-army relationship. They are also members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which accounts for over 40 per cent of global GDP, and are working closely on the Mekong River problem. Additionally, the Fulbright University will be opened in Hồ Chí Minh City later this year, the US top diplomat said.

John Kerry received many medals while being on active duty in the US Navy during the Việt Nam War. After returning from military service, however, he became an anti-war protestor and joined in a series of large-scale demonstrations against the war in Việt Nam in 1971.

The Việt Nam War Summit that runs April 26–28 is to shed light on the war, its lessons and legacy.

It took place just days before the 41st anniversary of the end of the war and on the threshold of US President Barack Obama’s official visit to Việt Nam in late May. The Secretary of State will also accompany the President during this visit.

Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Phạm Quang Vinh is expected to give a speech on Thursday (US time).


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