02 July 2005

Vatican Hopes to Normailize Ties to Vietnam

It appears that the Hanoi government is quite busy courting the western world these days.

VATICAN CITY - The Vatican said Saturday it hoped to quickly normalize diplomatic relations with Vietnam following a weeklong visit to Rome by a government delegation.

Relations between the Holy See and Vietnam have been stormy because the government has insisted on final approval over all church appointments in Vietnam. The Roman Catholic church also has had a shortage of priests in its Vietnam parishes due to government control over the seminaries.

Pope Benedict XVI has said he wants to establish relations with all countries that don't have ties to the Vatican. While his remarks were believed to focus on China, Vatican officials also have noted that they could be directed at Vietnam.

The Vietnamese government delegation arrived in Rome on Monday and ended the visit Saturday, meeting with top Vatican officials in various departments in the first such visit since 1992, the Vatican said in a communique.

The question of relations was examined "with the hope that it quickly advances in the direction of their normalization," the statement said.

Here is a quick chronology of U.S. / Vietnam since 2000

July 13, 2000
The United States Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky and Vietnam's Trade Minister Vu Khoan sign a major trade agreement intended to provide Vietnam with access to the U.S.market on the same terms granted to most other nations. Vietnam agrees to lower tariffs and other trade barriers on American products and services. The trade agreement is the last step in normalizing relations between the U.S. and Vietnam.

November 16-19, 2000
President Bill Clinton and his family, Hillary Clinton and their daughter Chelsea, arrived in Hanoi for a historic visit. Clinton was the first President to visit Vietnam since President Nixon's visit in 1969. The purpose of Clinton's trip was to discuss relations between the two countries. Clinton said, "I think it is time to write a new chapter here." See President Clinton's Visit to Vietnam.

July 24-26, 2001
Secretary of State Colin Powell pays a three-day visit to Vietnam where he attended the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi. It was Powell's first visit to Vietnam since he served in the war in 1969.

October 3, 2001
The United States Senate approves an agreement normalizing trade between the United States and Vietnam.

November 28, 2001
Vietnam's National Assembly ratifies the trade agreement with the United States but warned that any U.S. interference in Vietnam's internal affairs could jeopardize implementation of the agreement. The Vietnamese government voiced strong concerns over the U.S. House of Representatives' passage of a Vietnam Human Rights Act which ties future U.S. non-humanitarian aid to improvements in Vietnam's human rights record.

November 10, 2003
U.S. S ecretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld met with Vietnam's Defense Minister Pham Van Tra. This was the first time a senior Vietnamese military official has visited Washington.

November 19, 2003
Navy missile frigate USS Vandegrift docked in the port of Ho Chi Minh City, a symbolic act aimed at boosting relations between Vietnam and the United States. Many of the crew were sons and daughters of Vietnam War veterans. It was the first U.S. ship to dock in Vietnam since the end of the war.

January 14, 2004
Nguyen Cao Ky, who served as premier of South Vietnam until 1967 and then as vice president from 1967 to 1971, paid a visit to relatives in Vietnam for the Tet holiday. Permission for the visit was given by the Vietnamese government. The visit caused controversy among overseas Vietnamese who felt it would legitimize the current government in Vietnam. Ky fled to the United States prior to the fall of Saigon in 1975.

March 25 , 2005
Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai welcomed Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Han, who was banned from returning to Vietnam in 1966. the Zen Master was invitated by the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha's International Religious Board and will stay in Vietnam for 3 months.

March 29, 2005
The USS Gary arrived in the port of Saigon, marking the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. The first U.S. naval ship visited Vietnam in November, 2003 and the second in July, 2004. The visits are expected to become annual.

April 30, 2005
The 30th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War.

June 19, 2005
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and a delegation of the Vietnamese government arrived in Seattle, the first destination on his official four-city, week-long visit to the United States at the invitation of President George Bush. "The purpose of my visit to the United States is to elevate our relationship to a higher plane," Khai said.

The Prime Minister Phan Van Khai met privately with Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates at the software company's Redmond headquarters. Gates also gave him a tour of Microsoft's "home of the future" display of consumer technology and a company research center.The Prime Minister also met with the press and representatives of major U.S. businesses at his first stop. Contracts worth $35 million were signed.

The Prime Minister met with President Bush on Tuesday, June 21 in the White House. The two leaders talked about Vietnam's desire to join the World Trade Organization, business issues, human rights and signed an agreement that Bush said would make it easier for people to worship freely in Vietnam.

The Prime Minister is highest-ranking leader to visit the United States since the Vietnam War ended 30 years ago. The last time a Vietnamese leader visited the United States, he was representing a country that no longer exists.

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