Vietnam's defense chief makes first visit to Pentagon

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Vietnam's defense chief Do Ba Ty (right) with Army General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon June 20. Photo courtesy of Vietnam News Agency

Vietnam's defense chief visited the Pentagon Thursday for the first time since the end of US military involvement in the Vietnam War 40 years ago.

Senior Lieutenant General Do Ba Ty, chief of the general staff of the People's Army of Vietnam, met with US Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs, in the Joint Chief's meeting room, known as the Tank.

Ty was quoted in a Vietnam News Agency report as saying the visit was aimed at taking the relationship between the two militaries to the next level.

He said Vietnam will try its best to promote the cooperation between the ASEAN and the US, for the sake of regional peace and prosperity.

Dempsey also said that the US is on board with any peaceful, internationally legal solutions to territory disputes in the Asia-Pacific region, expressing his wish that ASEAN and China will be able to establish the Code of Conduct in the East Sea.

Scott McIlnay, a Dempsey spokesman, said in a statement that the army chiefs' discussions included the Obama administration's "rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region," according to a Bloomberg report.

Last year the Pentagon announced plans to shift more attention and military assets to the region.

"This was the first-ever visit by a Vietnamese chief of defense to the Pentagon," McIlnay said.

Bloomberg reported that the visit was made a day after the 40th anniversary of the approval of the Case-Church Amendment, which took effect August 15, 1973 and prohibited further US military action in Vietnam. The provision was named for Republican Senator Clifford Case of New Jersey and Democratic Senator Frank Church of Idaho.

The US-backed southern regime fell to Vietnam's liberation army in 1975, 20 years before the countries resumed diplomatic relations.

Ty was in the US from June 17-22. He also visited the Lewis-McChord military base near Washington, the US Congress on Capitol Hill, and met with Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran.

A Tien Phong report said the Vietnam's delegation included Lieutenant General Truong Minh Hoa, Commander of the Vietnam People's Air Defence and Air Force and Rear Admiral Nguyen Van Ninh, Deputy Commander of the Vietnam People's Navy.

The delegation next headed to France for a visit from June 23-26 per an invitation by Admiral Édouard Guillaud, France's Chief of Defense Staff.

Several improvements have been made in the relationship between Vietnam and the US, two war combatants, recently.

Nguyen Quoc Cuong on June 13 became the first Vietnamese ambassador to the US to be invited to the annual National League of POW/MIA Families conference in Washington D.C. since it was founded in 1970 as a nonprofit organization concerned with finding missing, dead or imprisoned American soldiers from the Vietnam War.

Cooperation between the countries has helped find 693 US soldiers and nearly 1,000 Vietnamese soldiers missing in action (MIA). The US says 1,666 members of its military personnel are still missing from the conflict and of those, 1,284 are believed to be in Vietnam.

Vietnam on June 4 of last year, during a visit by US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to Hanoi, also agreed to open three previously restricted sites in central Vietnam to the US for future search for its MIA soldiers.

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