Nearly fifty years since the end of the Vietnam War, and more than a quarter century since the normalization of U.S.-Vietnam relations, Vietnam is emerging as a rising power at the heart of the Indo-Pacific region and as an increasingly important U.S. partner. The U.S. Institute of Peace engages in research and dialogue examining the extraordinary arc of U.S.-Vietnam relations, including efforts to come to terms with our difficult history. In August 2021, USIP launched the Vietnam War Legacies and Reconciliation Initiative to support public education, government-to-government and people-to-people dialogue among Vietnamese and Americans.
The Taliban’s rapid victory in Afghanistan evoked many comparisons to the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime and U.S. evacuation from Saigon in 1975. Ironically, during the same week in late August that the last U.S. forces were withdrawing from Kabul, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris carried out a remarkably successful visit to Hanoi. U.S.-Vietnam relations have arguably never been better — a stark contrast to the scent of failure in Afghanistan.
Nearly 50 years after the end of the Vietnam War, new collaboration between the United States and Vietnam this month is strengthening the former enemies’ friendship and consolidating what has become a model reconciliation process, Vietnamese officials say. Vietnam’s deputy defense minister and its ambassador to the United States welcomed U.S. steps in recent days to help Vietnam locate its hundreds of thousands of citizens still missing from the war. With U.S. officials, they spoke in a USIP forum on that progress — and on urgent steps still to be taken to heal the wounds of that war.
While cooperation on war legacy issues topped the agenda during U.S. Defense Secretary Austin’s recent trip to Vietnam, USIP’s Brian Harding says the deepening U.S-Vietnam relationship is, in part, meant “to balance what they’re concerned about on [Vietnam’s] northern border” with China.
In 2021, the U.S. Institute of Peace launched a multiyear project to foster greater dialogue both in and between the United States and Vietnam on war legacy issues and reconciliation. This project stems from the U.S. Congress’s landmark 2021 authorization for the U.S. government to assist Vietnam in identifying its missing personnel, following decades of Vietnamese cooperation to help the United States conduct the fullest possible accounting of U.S. personnel. This project will support this bilateral initiative while also engaging in the work that remains to addresss legacies of war — including the continuing impacts of Agent Orange and unexploded ordnance — and to deepen reconciliation.