BANGKOK, Thailand -- U.S. presidential emissary Gen. John Vessey Jr. and a high-level delegation left for Hanoi Friday for two days of talks on efforts to account for Americans missing since the Vietnam War, the U.S. Embassy said.
The 16-member delegation, which includes Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Carl Ford and officials from the State Department, is also expected to receive a more detailed Vietnamese reaction to a U.S. plan for normalization of diplomatic relations.
That plan, presented to Vietnamese officials in New York earlier this month, makes normalization dependent on Vietnam persuading its allies in Cambodia to accept and implement a U.N. peace plan.
Gloria Berbena, spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, said Vessey left for Hanoi as scheduled for two days of talks with Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach.
'This mission seeks to accelerate the pace of results to achieve the U.S. government's priority objective of accounting as fully as possible for all missing Americans,' she said.
Berbena said Vessey planned to emphasize the cases of 119 servicemen believed to have survived aircraft crashes to become prisoners of the Vietnamese. Vietnam, however, has denied having knowledge of the men.
She said Vessey met with President Bush and national security adviser Brent Snowcroft before leaving for Bangkok.
The talks are meant to follow up on discussions between Thach and Vessey in Washington on Oct. 17 when the Vietnamese leader promised improved cooperation, she said.
Included in the delegation is Ann Mills Griffiths, the executive director of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, the private organization that represents much of the public pressure on the administration to settle the issue.
A total of 2,278 Americans are still missing in Indochina and the emotional issue has hampered effortsto improve relations.
Vietnam, plagued by political isolation and faltering economic support from the Soviet Union, its main ally, has been eager for full diplomatic relations with the United States and an end to the U.S. economic embargo.
The key sticking point, according to U.S. officials, is the lack of progress toward a settlement in Cambodia.
The new U.S. plan outlined specific U.S. responses to specific points in progress implementing the U.N.'s Cambodian peace plan, which includes a cease-fire, disarmament of troops and U.N.-supervised elections.
In its first reaction to the plan, a Vietnamese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman rejected the U.S. approach, saying normalization of relations was needed to facilitate a political settlement in Cambodia.
Vietnam invaded Cambodia in 1978 to overthrow the China-backed Khmer Rouge regime and install a communist government friendly to Hanoi. The Khmer Rouge, however, continue to fight the government in an alliance with two non-communist groups backed by the United States.