US official seeks more funds for Vietnam War clean-up

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A senior US official heard Tuesday how unexploded war-time bombs are still killing Vietnamese and said he would return home to seek additional funding to help Vietnam reduce the threat.

On another legacy of the Vietnam War, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said clean-up of contamination from the war-time herbicide Agent Orange is expected to start next year.

"I was quite moved by the description of some of the tragic losses and injuries that have been caused by UXO (unexploded ordnance), and I will bring that back with me to Washington as we seek to identify additional resources," said Shapiro.

"I had extensive briefings and discussions regarding how the United States can support UXO clearance in Vietnam," he said at a joint news conference with Pham Binh Minh, Vietnam's vice-minister of foreign affairs.

They spoke after their third annual political, security and defense dialogue.

Shapiro said the US will provide US$3.5 million this year for clearing unexploded ordnance in Vietnam, where US forces fought for several years in the 1960s and early 70s before the country's reunification in 1975.

The US and Vietnam have also been cooperating on preliminary measures to clean up potentially cancer-causing dioxin at Da Nang airport. Dioxin was a component of Agent Orange and other herbicides sprayed as defoliants during the war.

Late last year the US awarded a contract for a year-long project to build a secure landfill site to hold contaminated soil and sediment at the airport.

Vietnam blames dioxin for a spate of birth deformities.

Tuesday's talks came 15 years after the two countries normalized relations and covered a wide range of topics including regional security and possibilities for further defense cooperation.

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