Talks in Hanoi last week on United States servicemen still unaccounted for since the Vietnam war were ``the most substantive and productive to date,'' said Ann Griffiths, executive director of the League of MIA/POW Families. Ms. Griffiths, part of a four-person delegation that also included Richard Childress of the National Security Council, talked to reporters here on her return from Hanoi Thursday night.
During their overnight stay in the Vietnamese capital they had talks with senior Vietnamese officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Hoang Bich Son and Vo Dong Giang, minister of state in the Foreign Ministry. The Vietnamese officials repeated an announcement made last month that Vietnam would try to resolve the issue within the next two years.
Griffiths said the Vietnamese had obviously made a ``high-level decision'' to remove the POW/MIA issue as an obstacle in relations between the US and Vietnam. At the same time she noted an ``absolute absence'' on the part of the Vietnamese of an attempt to link resolution of the issue to normalization of relations with, aid from, or trade with the US. The Vietnamese realized that lack of diplomatic relations with Washington is due to Vietnam's involvement in Kampuchea, she added.
And so far, she said, there have been more results in getting action from Vietnam, which the US does not recognize, than from Laos, where the US has an embassy.
During a visit to Vientiane, Laos, earlier in the week, the same US delegation was told that Laos had approved a second visit to the crash site of a US aircraft by a joint US-Lao excavation team. A small group of Lao officials would probably be going to US government forensic laboratories in Hawaii later this month for training.
More than 2,400 US servicemen are still unaccounted for, one still classified as missing in action, the others held to have been killed in action.