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Vietnam looks for better economic relations with West

By David FouquetSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / April 21, 1982



Brussels

Vietnam is taking steps to improve economic relations with the West.

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Like some other revolutionary regimes which do not want to be totally dependent on Soviet-bloc countries for aid, Vietnam is making overtures to the West.

Completing a mission to four West European capitals, Vietnamese Foreign Affairs Minister Nguyen Co Thach acknowledged here that he was seeking economic as well as diplomatic support. His trip included stops in Stockholm, Paris, Brussels, and Bonn before travelling on to Moscow and New Delhi.

In Europe, Mr. Thach sought to project a conciliatory position on Vietnam's involvement in Kampuchea (Cambodia), the Kampuchean refugee issue, and economic cooperation with non-Comecon countries. He blamed China for friction between his country and the other Southeast Asian countries and rejected allegations that Vietnam intends to dominate the region.

Concerning the economic aspects of his missions, he told journalists, ''We are not begging, but after 35 years of war, we need food aid.

''We would like to industrialize,'' he added, ''but it will take lots of time. So far only the Soviet Union and other socialist countries have been willing to help while still respecting our independence. . . .

''All countries big and small . . . need long-term economic cooperation,'' he continued. ''We have mineral resources and manpower that could be used in our mutual interests if there is mutual respect.''

While there were few tangible results from his mission, Mr. Thach and his aides indicated they hoped that contacts had been established that could lead to aid and joint economic ventures.

But the foreign minister stressed that no such economic links could be forged if politics became involved. He said that US aid had been rejected because of the political strings attached to it.