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.
Once a symbol of Vietnam’s north-south division and the site of one of the 20th century’s bloodiest battles, Quang Tri province has quietly become an example of successful postwar reconstruction. Through a concerted effort led by provincial authorities, Quang Tri has reduced unexploded ordnance (UXO) casualties from thousands after the end of the Second Indochina War in 1975, and around 100 per year in the early 2000s, to nearly zero today.
President Joe Biden attends a virtual U.S.-ASEAN Summit meeting, from the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds in Washington on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. (Stefani Reynolds/The New York Times)
Nearly 50 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 an increasingly important U.S. partner. Once one of the world’s poorest and most isolated countries, Vietnam is now a middle-income country with a dynamic, young population and a promising future.
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.
In today’s era of strategic competition between the United States and China, crises are more likely than ever in the Indo-Pacific region. Effective mechanisms are therefore needed to prevent such crises from escalating into armed conflict. To this end, USIP is examining crisis communication mechanisms and negotiations between China and its regional neighbors to identify common issues and themes across countries to provide lessons that can be learned and shared.