The expected quick return of three U.S. Navy fliers rescued by Vietnam after ditching their plane in the South China Sea would be another sign of a recent thaw in relations between Hanoi and Washington.

Diplomatic souces said Sunday that the three Americans would be turned over soon to U.S. officials, but gave no specific details.The three American fliers crashed Tuesday near the disputed Spratly Islands off the Vietnamese coast and were quickly rescued by the crew of a Vietnamese naval vessel in the area.

The three were identified as pilot Lt. Richard K. Maurer, 30, of Harvey's Lake, Pa.; co-pilot Lt. j.g. Elizabeth Steinnecker, 29, of Tampa, Fla., and Petty Officer 1st Class Michael R. Neel, 34, of Albuquerque.

Vietnam said the three fliers have been treated well.