US plans Hanoi `embassy'

Washington - The United States yesterday announced plans finally to open political liaison offices - embassies in all but name - with Vietnam today, and to sign two agreements settling property and other claims left over from the Indochina war.

Christine Shelly, State Department spokesman, told reporters that the move fulfilled an announcement made by President Bill Clinton when, on 3 February 1994, he lifted the two-decade-old trade embargo against Vietnam and declared his intention to open a liaison office in Hanoi at a later date.

She emphasised, however, that today's action does not constitute the establishment of formal diplomatic relations with Vietnam and noted that that will only come after further progress in accounting for American servicemen still missing in action from the conflict.

Vietnam is a sensitive subject for the Clinton administration. Conservative US politicians, some war veterans' groups and families of more than 2,000 missing US servicemen oppose the President's moves to improve relations. n

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