Dioxin Developments

June 21, 2016 | Commercial Litigation | Complex Torts & Product Liability

President Obama, His Vietnam Visit, and Dioxin

President Obama’s historic visit to Vietnam in May at the invitation of President Tran Dai Quang was notable for many reasons, from the discussions about the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal to the United States’ decision to lift the arms embargo on Vietnam. It also was notable for the news and comments the leaders made relating to Agent Orange and dioxin.

The Joint Statement

The two countries issued a joint statement that highlighted their “common interest” in promoting economic growth thanks to enhanced trade and investment relations and their deepening cooperation in education, science and technology, health, security and national defense, as well as their people-to-people ties, human rights, and humanitarian issues.

The two countries reaffirmed their obligations to observe the United Nations Charter and their commitments to respect international law, their respective political systems, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. The United States and Vietnam also committed to strengthening and developing the ASEAN Community and to working with the international community to respond to global challenges.

Among other things, both sides also expressed their satisfaction with their joint efforts to “advance humanitarian and war legacy issues.” In particular, the United States said that it valued Vietnam’s “active cooperation to support the humanitarian mission of providing the fullest possible accounting for U.S. personnel still missing from the war.” Both sides also “committed to continue their cooperation on unexploded ordnance removal.”

In addition, Vietnam said that it “welcomed cooperation leading to the successful conclusion of the first phase of dioxin remediation at Danang International Airport, with the final phase already underway.” The United States also committed to “partnering with Vietnam to make a significant contribution to the clean-up of dioxin contamination at Bien Hoa Air Base.”

Press Conference Remarks

President Quang referenced the Bien Hoa Air Base and the Danang Airport at a joint press conference with President Obama on May 23.

President Obama did as well. After mentioning that the United States will “continue to help remove unexploded landmines and bombs,” President Obama stated, “now that our joint effort to remove dioxin – Agent Orange – from Danang Airport is nearly complete, the United States will help in the cleanup at Bien Hoa Air Base.”

President Obama’s Address

In an address to the people of Vietnam on May 24, President Obama declared, among other things, that “the very war that had divided us became a source for healing.  It allowed us to account for the missing and finally bring them home.  It allowed us to help remove landmines and unexploded bombs, because no child should ever lose a leg just playing outside.  Even as we continue to assist Vietnamese with disabilities, including children, we are also continuing to help remove Agent Orange – dioxin – so that Vietnam can reclaim more of your land.  We’re proud of our work together in Danang, and we look forward to supporting your efforts in Bien Hoa.”

Fact Sheet

Finally, a Fact Sheet released by the White House in connection with President Obama’s visit to Vietnam highlighted that the United States “has invested nearly $90 million in dioxin remediation at the Danang airport, a project that will finish next year” and that the United States also has “funded an environmental assessment at Bien Hoa airbase.”

For further information, please contact James V. Aiosa, Paul V. Majkowski, Lawrence S. Han, or your regular Rivkin Radler attorney.

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