Late Vietnamese intelligence chief a 'champion' in resolving wartime consequences: US senator

By Thanh Danh   September 16, 2023 | 07:16 am PT
Late Vietnamese intelligence chief a 'champion' in resolving wartime consequences: US senator
A screenshot U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley speaking at an online dialogue hosted in Washington by the United States Institute of Peace on September 14, 2023.
U.S. senator Jeff Merkley commended the important role of the late former defense intelligence chief Nguyen Chi Vinh in mending the Vietnam-U.S. relations.

"Each significant positive effort takes champions on both sides of the relations, and certainly Senior Lieutenant General Vinh was a champion, and he will be missed," Merkley said at an online dialogue on wartime legacies and peace in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia on September 14, hosted in Washington by the United States Institute of Peace.

The senator said Vinh was a "key architect" in efforts to build the relationship between Vietnam and the U.S., eapecially through dioxin decontamination projects.

Senior Lieutenant General Nguyen Chi Vinh, former deputy minister of national defense, died at home in Hanoi on Thursday following a period of ill health. He was 64.

Merkley recounted that at a U.S. Congress meeting on March 21, 2021, then-senator Patrick Leahy, one of the most vocal supporters for Vietnam among the senators, had also commended Vinh's role in mending and developing the Vietnam-U.S. bilateral relations.

Vinh was described as Leahy's most important partner for bolstering efforts to deal with dioxin contamination at sites in Vietnam where the U.S. army was based during the war.

Merkley said the Vietnam-U.S. projects for dioxin decontamination in Da Nang and Dong Nai's Bien Hoa Airport were a part of the joint legacies by both Leahy and Vinh, adding that it would take at least 10 years to clean up Bien Hoa, and the project would cost around $500 million.

Leahy and Vinh had launched a dioxin decontamination project in Da Nang in 2012 together. Leahy in 2022 said his personal connection with Vinh had helped him understand Vietnam and communicate easier regarding projects to resolve wartime consequences.

In a tribute to Vinh in 2021, Leahy said the dioxin decontamination project at the Da Nang Airport would never have become a reality without Vinh.

Leahy said dealing with wartime legacies is one of the important factors to build trust and mutual respect between Vietnam and the U.S. following normalization.

Vinh was a professor from 2013 after obtaining a PhD in international relations.

He was a member of the Party Central Committee for two terms and deputy general director and then general director of Defense Intelligence under the Ministry of National Defense.

In 2009 he became deputy minister of defense, a position held until June 2021.

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