President Reagan said Friday normalization of relations with Hanoi "can only come in the context of a political settlement in Cambodia," even though Vietnam has raised hopes of accounting for more Americans missing in Indochina.
Reagan told the National League of POW-MIA Families "the governments of Indochina know that resolution of this issue is critical to any future relationship."Vietnam announced Thursday that it had arranged for the first joint U.S.-Vietnamese searches aimed at settling cases of missing Americans.
In return, Washington agreed to adopt an "active attitude" toward Vietnam's own humanitarian problems, the official Vietnamese radio said.
Reagan said the Vietnamese government "has once again raised our hopes for a breakthrough" in locating Americans missing in Vietnam, adding, "I welcome their pledge to my special emissary General (John) Vessey to accelerate their work on those cases he has discussed with them."
"We look forward to fulfillment," Reagan said, but he noted that promises have been made in the past by Vietnam and not carried out.
White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said there are 2,394 Americans believed to be missing in Vietnam, and the remains of 77 servicemen have been returned by Hanoi since contacts began.
Fitzwater said that Vietnam has recently stated its intention to withdraw their forces from Cambodia, and the United States would welcome a genuine settlement.
Reagan praised Laos for its cooperation but called on that country to agree to U.S. proposals for the return of the remains of Americans who died in the Vietnam conflict.
He also took a swipe at the Carter administration, saying that when he began his first term in 1981, "there was an unresponsive bureaucracy without clear direction, and now there are over 100 people in defense, state and intelligence agencies working full time to find your loved ones and bring you answers."