Vietnam invites France to Dien Bien Phu battle anniversary

By AFP   May 3, 2024 | 07:15 pm PT
Vietnam invites France to Dien Bien Phu battle anniversary
French Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu. Photo by AFP
France has for the first time been invited to commemorate the battle of Dien Bien Phu, which led to French troops' defeat in Vietnam and marked the country's last stand in colonial Indochina, Paris said Friday.

Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu will represent France at commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of the battle next week.

"For the first time in history, the Vietnamese have invited France to this commemoration, a sign of their desire to build a relationship for the future," the French defense ministry said on Friday.

"There is a shared desire to look at the history of the Indochina War in a lucid and open manner," the ministry said.

Dien Bien Phu in northern Vietnam was the site of an epic battle against Vietnamese forces in 1954 that spelled the end of France's colonial empire in Indochina.

The humiliating fall of the French troops in the Dien Bien Phu valley dented Paris's prestige and fueled independence movements in other colonies.

Vietnamese fighters hemmed in French forces -- equipped with superior weapons -- and bombarded them with heavy artillery.

The ferocious battle in the rugged, remote valley killed thousands of soldiers on both sides in under two months.

Lecornu, who is set to travel to Vietnam on Saturday, will pay tribute "to the Vietnamese dead at a Vietnamese military cemetery" on Tuesday, the defense ministry said.

He will also honor the memory of French soldiers at the French memorial at Dien Bien Phu.

On Monday, Lecornu is set to meet with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Defense Minister Phan Van Giang.

The defense ministry said in March that France was to repatriate from Vietnam the bodies of six soldiers who died in Dien Bien Phu.

What was once called French Indochina has today become Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

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