U.S. officials believe the Vietnamese decision to break off talks on POW-MIA issues and the emigration of re-education camp detainees is a "pothole in the road" that will soon be passed over.
The Vietnamese announced the suspension of the talks after a State Department official testified on Capitol Hill that the department opposed establishing diplomatic relations until the Vietnamese remove all of their troops from Cambodia.The Vietnamese earlier had announced they would permit U.S. search teams to investigate 70 crash sites that might produce evidence of Americans listed as missing in action.
The United States and Vietnam also announced July 15 there was agreement in principle for South Vietnamese, who had been put in "re-education camps" because they were associated with government forces or the U.S. forces during the war, to be permitted to leave Vietnam.
The Vietnamese said those two operations would be "temporarily suspended" because of the State Department's refusal to upgrade relations with Hanoi. The State Department insists there can be no link between humanitarian issues and political measures.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Lambertson, reiterating that position, said several issues remain to be settled on the re-education camp detainees. But he told a House subcommittee, "It is possible that the processing of released detainees may begin with the next several months."
One official described the Vietnamese suspension of the talks as "a pothole in the road" with no lasting importance and there are indications that the Vietnamese are prepared to wind up the remaining details in the negotiations.
Those issues, said officials, involve determining the procedures on the camp detainee emigration. The Vietnamese want offices set up in Hanoi and Washington to process the emigres. The United States contends there is no need for a Vietnamese office in Washington, but the United States would be willing to send a technical working group to Hanoi.
The Vietnamese also want iron assurances from the United States that the detainees who are allowed to leave would not return to Southeast Asia to try to mount anti-communist incursions or insurrections in Vietnam.
The U.S. side has offered to make a commitment that U.S. laws forbidding such military actions in other countries would be strictly enforced with the Vietnamese emigres, the same way that Cubans are prevented from mounting anti-Castro operations from the United States.
The United States already has 11,000 applications from re-education camp detainees who would be eligible to leave Vietnam. It is estimated that the total number of emigres plus their families would be about 50,000.
There are some estimates that as many as 500,000 South Vietnamese have been interned in the harsh re-education camps.