US Congressional Delegation Rekindles Diplomatic Relations

The US congressional delegation is looking to build on the progress of their predecessors during their visit to Vietnam from April 7-11, hoping to further strengthen and grow the relationship between the two countries.

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There are many collaboration opportunities and partnerships between our two countries. Consequently, I believe that our attendance here is significant in reinforcing that relationship.”

Senator Jeff Merkley, who leads the U.S. congressional delegation, affirmed his commitment to the cause during a press conference on April 7 in Hanoi. Accompanying him was Chris Van Hollen, a Democratic Senator from Maryland; Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic Representative from Washington State; Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic Representative from Texas; and Ilhan Omar, a Democratic Representative from Minnesota.

US Congressional Delegation Refuels Diplomatic Relations
The US Congressional delegation shared the priorities during their visit to Vietnam from April 7-11. (Photo: TGVN)

“Vietnam is always on our mind”

Senator Merkley said that the resolution is intended to support and strengthen the capacity of countries in the Mekong region.

Speaking about the cooperation between the two Congresses over the past time, Senator Jeff Merkley has declared that the US Congress has consistently paid heed to Vietnam. Recently, he and Senator Dan Sullivan from Alaska proposed a draft resolution to show their support for countries in the Mekong River basin. This region has significant economic potential, yet is confronted with numerous issues due to climate change, such as land subsidence and increased sea level. Senator Merkley specified that this resolution is formulated to strengthen and assist the countries in the Mekong area.

On regional security and prosperity, Jeff Merkley and Chris Van Hollen proposed a Resolution recognizing the central role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). After visiting Vietnam, the delegation will travel to Indonesia, where the ASEAN headquarters is located, to recognize the significance of the country’s current role as ASEAN Chair. By doing so, the Resolution aims to promote the security and prosperity of the Southeast Asian region.

US Congressional Delegation Refuels Diplomatic Relations
Senator Jeff Merkley at the press conference. (Photo: TGVN)

Prior, the delegation had a meeting with members of the National Assembly of Vietnam to strengthen the relationship between the legislative bodies of the two countries. In the coming time, the National Assembly of Vietnam will also send a delegation to the US Congress.

According to Senator Jeff Merkley, the United States Congress has recently established the Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL), and Vietnam is set to be invited to take part in this initiative.

Four pillars on overcoming the consequences of war

Senator Chris Van Hollen emphasized that in previous meetings at all levels, including the high-level meeting with the Prime Minister and the President of the National Assembly of Vietnam, the delegation discussed the issue of post-war consequences and how to continue their efforts to overcome them, which were believed to be very productive.

He reiterated the four pillars of overcoming the consequences of war, including aiding individuals and families with disabilities caused by the conflict, decontaminating dioxin-tainted sites, clearing landmines and unexploded ordnance, locating missing soldiers, and returning the remains of American and Vietnamese soldiers to their families.

US Congressional Delegation Refuels Diplomatic Relations
US Senator Chris Van Hollen affirmed the commitment of the US Congress in overcoming the consequences of the war in Vietnam in particular and bilateral relations in general. (Photo: TGVN)

The US senator affirmed that, in addition to efforts from the executive branch—including the Biden administration, the cabinet, Congress, and the legislative branch—many positive efforts have been made. The legislative branch also decides budgets and expenditures, including the package aimed at overcoming the consequences of the war in Vietnam.

“There are a lot of upcoming and current programs being launched by Senator Patrick Leahy and the late Senator John McCain. We feel a responsibility to continue these efforts and providing resources for further efforts,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.

Impression on the return day

Speaking at the press conference, Pramila Jayapal—the only member of the delegation who had ever visited Vietnam—expressed surprise at the remarkable development of the S-shaped country over the past 28 years.

The US Representative said that she had the privilege to visit Vietnam in 1995, right after the restoration of Vietnam-US relations. At that time, she worked for an NGO and teamed up with the Vietnamese Ministry of Health in tackling HIV/AIDS.

Unlike her previous visit, when she comes to Ho Chi Minh City this time, she can experience more of the Mekong Delta and the Mekong River. From the bustling streets of the city to the winding waterways of the delta and the mighty river, she will be able to explore a different side of Vietnam.

Meeting with representatives of generations of Vietnamese who had once studied in the United States, Pramila was confident that their collective skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm could make a major contribution to advancing bilateral ties.

US Congressional Delegation Refuels Diplomatic Relations
Representative Pramila Jayapal shared her feelings about returning to Vietnam after 28 years. (Photo: TGVN)

Affirming herself as a “woman of the ASEAN region”, the US Representative shared the joy of returning to this region after having worked in many ASEAN country members such as Indonesia, Singapore, Cambodia, and Thailand. She expressed her delight at being able to reconnect with a region she had come to know and love.

Pramila Jayapal asserted that climate change is an imperative issue of national security and that the United States places significant emphasis on collaboration in this domain. Moreover, during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the US has distributed a considerable number of vaccines to Vietnam in the realm of medical cooperation. According to Jayapal, this is a way for the US to honor its international commitments and responsibilities and is a strong basis for further promoting the relationship between the two countries in the future.

We are profoundly moved and awed by the strength of the Vietnamese people. Vietnam is also an extraordinary, altruistic country. We are immensely proud of you and thankful to you for that,” said U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal.
Tracy Dao