Fri, Nov 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Vietnam and US complete airport decontamination

AP, HANOI

Vietnam and the US on Wednesday said they have finished the cleanup of dioxin contamination at Da Nang International Airport caused by the transport and storage of the herbicide Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

The 30 hectares of land cleansed of the toxic chemical were handed over to Vietnam at a ceremony.

Vietnamese Vice Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh praised the US government’s involvement in the cleanup.

“It is proof that we are opening a future of good cooperation between the governments of Vietnam and the United States,” he said. “Today marks the day that Da Nang airport is no longer known as a dioxin hot spot, the day that Da Nang people can be assured that their health will not be destroyed by chemicals left over from the war.”

Large amounts of Agent Orange, which contains dioxin, were stored at the airport during the war and sprayed by US forces to defoliate the countryside and deny communist fighters jungle cover. Vietnamese still suffer from the effects of the spraying.

US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink called the cleanup a significant milestone in the expanding partnership between the two nations.

“This project truly is a hallmark of our countries’ shared vision to be honest about the past, deal responsibly with remaining legacy issues and turn a point of contention into one of collaboration,” he said.

Working together on the issues of the past “builds strategic trust and enables us to further strengthen our forward-looking partnership that advances shared interests and strong people-to-people ties,” Kritenbrink added.

Between 1962 and 1971, the US military sprayed about 41.64 million liters of Agent Orange across large swaths of southern Vietnam. Dioxin stays in the soil and in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers for generations. It can enter the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.

Vietnam says as many as 4 million of its citizens were exposed to the herbicide and as many as 3 million have contracted illnesses caused by it — including the children of people who were exposed during the war.

The US government says the actual number of people affected is much lower and that Vietnamese are too quick to blame Agent Orange for birth defects that can be caused by malnutrition or other factors.

Last month, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis visited Bien Hoa Air Base north of Ho Chi Minh City, another dioxin hot spot.

The US Agency for International Development is to soon begin a soil restoration project at the base that is estimated to take several years and cost US$390 million.

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