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US Spurns Vietnamese Request for Food Aid

April 7, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The State Department on Thursday spurned a Vietnamese official’s invitation to the United States to send food aid to regions where villagers are being asked to search for the remains of American servicemen.

″We are outraged at any suggestion of linking food assistance with the return of remains,″ State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said. ″As you know, the United States does not provide aid to Vietnam, and does not plan to do so.″

The spokeswoman said there was no official Vietnamese request for food aid and that her response was based on news reports of comments in Hanoi by Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach after a visit by Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D.

Pressler, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, is exploring the possibility of assisting Vietnam with the U.S. Food For Peace program. Thach was quoted as saying the United States might consider offering food to areas of Vietnam where rural people are asked to find U.S. servicemen’s remains.

The Reagan administration has ruled out U.S. government assistance to Vietnam as well as formal diplomatic relations, as long as Vietnamese troops remain in Cambodia. The administration has also accused Hanoi of withholding information that could resolve what happened to at least some of the 1,700 American servicemen still listed as missing in Vietnam.

During an airport ceremony in Hanoi on Wednesday, 27 bodies thought to be of missing Americans were loaded aboard a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft for a flight to Hawaii where identification experts will try to identify the remains.

Mrs. Oakley welcomed the Vietnamese decision to turn over the remains, but she declined to judge whether Hanoi’s action satisfied Vietnam’s promise last year to do as much as possible to resolve the cases of missing servicemen.

The agreement was reached during a mission by retired Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Under the agreement, the United States promised to encourage private American organizations to provide relief services to Vietnamese war victims. The chief effort involves the supply of prosthetic devices to Vietnamese who lost limbs during the war.

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