Vietnam 'MIA remains' to return to US

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Remains believed to be from American servicemen missing in action after aircraft crashes in the Vietnam War will be returned to the United States, officials said Friday.

The move follows excavations conducted jointly by investigators from the US Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and their Vietnamese counterparts.

Following a ceremony on Saturday four groups of remains will be flown from Da Nang, in central Vietnam, to Hawaii for further identification, said Ron Ward of the JPAC.

Some were uncovered during a mission in the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum at a site believed to be associated with the 1966 crash of a large transport aircraft, Ward said.

Other suspected remains came from an area in Quang Tri province, along the former demilitarized zone, where a US Marines CH-46 transport helicopter went down in 1967, he added.

A resident in Lang Son province, bordering China, also handed over other remains believed linked to the loss of an F-4 fighter-bomber.

Excavation in Tay Ninh province adjacent to Cambodia led to what Ward said are probably remains of another soldier listed as missing in action (MIA).

The working relationship between the US and Vietnamese sides is "at such a level now that really allows us to expand and move forward on our operations here," said Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Keane, commander of JPAC's Hanoi detachment.

The US and Vietnam began cooperating on investigations into missing American servicemen in 1985, helping to pave the way for a normalization of diplomatic relations 10 years later.

On Thursday investigators marked the 10th anniversary of a helicopter crash which killed seven American military men and nine Vietnamese on a joint mission to search for US MIAs.

Senior officials from both nations, along with relatives of the dead, attended the ceremony at a commemorative monument near the crash site in the north-central province of Quang Binh, Ward said.

Since the end of US combat involvement in 1973, the remains of 668 Americans listed as missing during the war have been repatriated from Vietnam and identified but 1,303 are still unaccounted for, the US says.

Hanoi says about 300,000 North Vietnamese soldiers are also still listed as missing from the war.

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