Vietnam has reaffirmed its willingness to speed up accounting for the 2,296 American servicemen still missing in Southeast Asia, a special envoy of President Bush said Friday.
Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., the presidential emissary to Hanoi for POW and MIA affairs, said he got the encouraging words from senior Vietnamese officials in a meeting Thursday in New York."They said they want to continue to cooperate and to speed up resolving the issue," Vessey told a reporter after addressing a ceremony for POW-MIA Recognition Day.
Vessey, a retired Army four-star general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met Thursday with the deputy foreign minister of Vietnam, Le Mai, and the Vietnamese ambassador to the United Nations, Trinh Xuan Lang. Also in the meeting were Richard Solomon, assistant secretary of state for East Asia-Pacific, and Ann Mills Griffiths, executive director of the National League of Families of POWs-MIAs.
Speaking to several dozen people attending the POW-MIA ceremony on a lawn outside the Pentagon, Vessey said the U.S. government remains committed to accounting for all American servicemen missing in action from the Vietnam War.
"We say to our missing comrades and to their families: `You are not forgotten, we will not forget you. The search goes on,"' Vessey said.
The ceremony, featuring a joint service honor guard and a display of all the U.S. state and territorial flags, concluded with a missing-man formation flyover by four Marine Corps F-4 fighter jets.
Paul Wolfowitz, the undersecretary of defense for policy, told the ceremony that the Bush administration is committed to resolving the Vietnam War MIA problem.
"We will apply any and all resources necessary to achieve the fullest possible accounting of Americans still missing in Southeast Asia," Wolfowitz said. "We bring an emotional commitment and sense of personal responsibility and accountability that is different from all the other issues and problems we face daily."
The ceremony coincided with the return to the continental United States on Friday of the remains of four American servicemen recovered in Laos last January during a joint U.S.-Laotian excavation effort. The remains were flown from Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii to Travis Air Force Base in California one day after the Pentagon announced the identities of the four, all lost March 5, 1971.
They were identified as David L. Nelson of Kirkland, Wash.; Ralph A. Moreira Jr., of Beaver Falls, Pa.; Joel C. Hatley of Albemarle, N.C.; and Michael E. King of Calhoun, Ga.