Past, Present, Future Come Together in Hanoi Meeting

June 4, 2012 09:14 AM

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is greeted by Vietnamese
Army Maj. Gen. Nguyen Cong Son, deputy chief of the office
of the minister of defense, upon arrival in Cam Ran Bay,
Vietnam, June 3, 2012.

 DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

HANOI, Vietnam, June 4, 2012 – The past, present and future came together here today during a meeting between Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phuong Quang Thanh.

The two men used the shared history of the United States and Vietnam to assess the status of military-to-military relations between the nations and chart the future of the partnership.

The past was represented by the two men exchanging artifacts of the Vietnam War -- the diary of a Vietnamese soldier and letters written by American service members.

The present was represented by Panetta’s historic visit yesterday to an American ship being repaired by Vietnamese workers in Cam Ranh Bay.

The future was represented by plans the men made to broaden and deepen defense cooperation between the two nations.

The meeting, held at the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense, was a chance for both sides to assess the progress made in the 17 years since the United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations. Panetta said the relationship between the two nations is based on mutual trust and understanding.

The two men discussed the memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation signed last year. The memo looks at areas where the two countries can work together, and has been successful over the past year, the Vietnamese defense minister said.

The two men agreed to expand cooperation in five key areas. These are high-level dialogues between the two countries, maritime security, search and rescue operations, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

"I also noted in our discussion the importance of our establishing an Office of Defense Cooperation to enhance our cooperation in these areas and as a signal of the United States’ enduring commitment to this important defense relationship of the future," Panetta said.

The men shared views on how the United States could work with the defense ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to try to improve the maritime rights of all nations, the defense secretary said. "We also discussed our shared commitment to a peaceful and prosperous and secure Asia-Pacific region," Panetta said.

The secretary expressed his deep thanks for Vietnam’s long-standing efforts to help the United States resolve the fate of those missing in action from the Vietnam War. "In particular I want to thank him for his offer to open up three new areas for remains recovery," he said.

"Our continued progress in this area -- as well as other legacies of war -- reflects … the growing maturity of the relationship between the United States and Vietnam," Panetta said. "I want the general to know and the people of Vietnam to know that we will … do everything possible to continue to work together to achieve our shared objectives and our common goals. I believe that the United States and Vietnam can build a better future not only for our people, but for the entire Asia-Pacific region."

For more stories on U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's travels to the Asian-Pacific, visit