The Vietnamese high command pulled out of Cambodia Thursday as part of a 50,000-man withdrawal from the fighting that has cost 55,000 Vietnamese lives - slightly less than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.
"From 1977 up to now we lost a total of 55,000," said Lt. Gen. Le Kha Phieu, deputy commander of the Vietnamese forces in Cambodia, in the first official acknowledgment of his country's casualties.Phieu said an equal number of men were wounded and that 30,000 of the deaths occurred in the first two years of fighting.
About 58,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam invaded Cambodia on Christmas Day 1978, and its forces are still fighting a three-part resistance coalition.
Phieu said that Vietnamese losses have been reduced each year, and last year totaled 500 killed and 2,500 wounded.
The pullout by the Vietnamese command came as Rafeeuddin Ahmed, a special U.N. envoy, was due for meetings in Phnom Penh late Thursday with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen - the first time the United Nations has talked to the Vietnamese-installed government in the search for a political settlement in the conflict.
The U.N. recognizes the resistance coalition headed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk as the rightful government of Cambodia.
Phieu and Vietnamese senior commander Maj. Gen. Le Ngoc Hien led about 300 officers and staff of the Vietnamese central command in Cambodia in boarding five Soviet An-26 airplanes and three Mi-8 helicopters in the withdrawal from Cambodia Thursday.