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In New Year, Old Socialist Ties Tug at Vietnam

January 1, 1994

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) _ Vietnam began the new year hoping for friendship with the United States, but Communist rulers also want to keep close ties with traditional allies, including Cuba and China.

From the U.S. administration came word this week that it was considering lifting the trade embargo against Vietnam to start a new postwar relationship.

But while hoping for new ties with market economies, Vietnamese rulers are very much aware that the worldwide democratic revolution has pushed the country in a small socialist corner in which it is joined only by Cuba, China, North Korea and Laos.

Today was Cuba’s national day, and Hanoi leaders sent Fidel Castro a message reaffirming ″Vietnam’s determination to stand side by side with the Cuban people,″ the official Vietnam News Agency reported.

At a celebration, Tran Thi Thanh Thanh, Vietnamese Cabinet minister and president of the Vietnam-Cuba Friendship Association, told Cuban embassy officials: ″The Vietnamese people resolutely ask the U.S. government to put an end to its embargo against Cuba.″

For now though, it’s the embargo on Vietnam that is getting attention. The embargo was imposed after Communist forces defeated the U.S.-backed South Vietnam government and reunified the country in 1975.

This week in Washington, a White House official said lifting the embargo is one of various options the administration will consider in coming weeks. But he said a decision would depend on how satisfactorily Vietnam has accounted for the fates of more than 2,000 Americans missing from the war.

A Washington Post story said administration officials are on the verge of recommending an end to the embargo but were waiting to see how President Clinton’s close aides would respond to the idea.

An end to the embargo would draw badly-needed foreign capital into impoverished Vietnam, and gain the country wider acceptance in the international community.

Friendship with giant northern neighbor China also would bring Vietnam more trade and economic development, but the security concern is overriding.

China armed the Vietnamese Communists during the war against the United States. But relations plummeted after Vietnam invaded Cambodia in late 1978 to begin a decade-long occupation, and China responded by launching a bloody strike across its border with Vietnam.

Sino-Vietnamese relations were normalized in 1991, and since then, Chinese customs and festivals have been revived in this country, influenced for centuries by China.

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