THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
(Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam)
November 17, 2000
PRESS BRIEFING BY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR SANDY BERGERHilton Hanoi Opera Hotel
Hanoi, Socialist Republic of Vietnam
MR. BERGER: [...] Today culminates an effort that has been underway for eight years to rebuild our relationship with Vietnam, to normalize our relationship, but to do so in a way that is true to our values and with total fidelity to those who served here, and particularly to the families of those who have people in Vietnam who are unaccounted for and missing.
Today I think also changes the character of the relationship going forward. I believe that after today, after this trip, another dimension of that relationship will be possible.
Let me briefly go through the two meetings that the President had -- one with President Luong, and then with the Prime Minister -- and I'll do this really as the meeting unfolded. President Luong warmly welcomed the President and thought his trip was very important to Vietnam. The President expressed his gratefulness for the reception that we received since we've arrived here yesterday and said he hoped to use this trip to build the foundation for further progress.
He thanked President Luong for the cooperation that we have received in the past several years from the government of Vietnam for the fullest possible accounting, and provided to President Luong 350,000 pages of archival material -- I can describe for you later. This is now the second installment of documents that were provided to the Vietnamese, just as they have provided us with hundreds of thousands of documents to help locate 300,000 Vietnamese who remain missing.
I'm happy to answer any questions about this or about the speech.
Q: Sandy, the 350,000 pages of documents, can you tell us a little bit about it? Are these incident reports? What do they say? And also I think the President said there would be another million pages between now and the end of the year -- do you mean this calendar year, and what will that contain?
MR. BERGER: These documents, this is the second tranche of three tranches of documents that we're providing. Included in the documents we're providing today, for example, are records from medical units here in Vietnam that actually treated Vietnamese wounded soldiers who then died. So you would then have, presumably, the date and location of death. The Marines will be providing an accounting of all of their information about where battles took place, how many people were reported to have been killed on either side of those battles, what the location of those battles were, which will obviously enable them to have some better information about site, locating remains. And the other million documents is what DOD believes will be possible.
This has been an ongoing process. We started this over a year ago. As I said, the Vietnamese have I think given us 800,000 documents over the past several years, which have been very important to our recreating the records. And we have indicated that we would do the same.
Q: And roughly any idea on how many missing Vietnamese would be encompassed in those?
MR. BERGER: They used the figure 300,000 missing. There are 1,400 American servicemen and women who remain unaccounted for in Vietnam. The figure that President Luong used was 300,000 Vietnamese -- civilians and soldiers, I took him to mean.
Q: Sandy, going back to the opening ceremony this morning, the President said he found it very moving. Obviously, you can't get inside his head, but could you tell us what thoughts were going through your mind as you stood in that presidential palace courtyard and saw the American flag, listened to the Vietnamese military band playing the National Anthem?
MR. BERGER: Well, it was an extraordinary event. Vietnam is a very big part of the lives of America and particularly Americans over a certain age. A lot of history and a lot of strong memories. I think that, to me, I felt very satisfied as I stood there that I think we've done this right. We set out eight years ago -- we could have done this in a month or a year, but we said at the very beginning that we would do this in a way that was true to the families and true to the missing, and that the accounting for the past would be the bridge to the future. And I felt very pleased that we'd succeeded.