Vietnam and the US: Good morning Vietnam

President Bill Clinton is going to Vietnam this month shortly after his successor is elected. The visit, just a few months after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, will be the first by a serving US president since Richard Nixon went to Saigon - now Ho Chi Minh City - in 1969. It will also be the first visit to the capital, Hanoi, by a serving US president. Clinton’s journey is thus rich in symbolism, marking yet another important step towards healing between Hanoi and Washington.

The World Today Updated 28 October 2020 Published 1 November 2000 3 minute READ

Martin Gainsborough

Specialist on Vietnam, School of Oriental and African Studies, London

During Bill Clinton’s presidency, US–Vietnam relations have been strengthening. They started rather hesitantly with Clinton appearing politically vulnerable amid accusations that he had dodged the draft to avoid serving in the war. However, diplomatic relations were established in 1995 and in July the two countries signed a bilateral trade accord.

Enemies to friends

The symbolism of former enemies beginning a new page was also evident in Washington’s appointment of its first ambassador to Vietnam since 1975. Douglas ‘Pete’ Petersen is himself a Vietnam veteran. As a fighter pilot he was shot down over Hanoi and imprisoned in the jail famously nicknamed by its inmates the ‘Hanoi Hilton’. What is more, Peterson is married to an Australian overseas Vietnamese.

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