Byline: James Morrison, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
The deputy prime minister of Vietnam yesterday insisted he wanted to concentrate on the future of U.S.-Vietnamese relations and move past the bitter memories of the Vietnam War.
"We want a strong Vietnam with rich people," Vu Khoan told editors and reporters at The Washington Times. "We want a strong, just and democratic society."
However, asked how Vietnam can build such a future without a free, multiparty democracy in which political dissent is encouraged, not repressed, he gave a history lesson.
"In the 1930s and 1940s, we had many political parties. They chose to side with the enemies of the people," he said, referring to the French colonial era. "Only the Communist Party chose to defend the people. The people recognize the historical role of the party."
He gave no indication of whether Vietnam would ever consider a multiparty democracy.
The Communist Party of Vietnam has been the only legal party since 1975 when the former North Vietnamese government reunified the country after invading South Vietnam in violation of the 1973 Paris Accord that ended the war.
While Americans refer to the conflict as the Vietnam War, he said Vietnamese have a different name for it.
"It is called the Anti-Aggression War for National Salvation" or, informally, the "anti-American war," he said.
Mr. Khoan, one of three deputy prime ministers, accompanied Prime Minister Phan Van Khai on his visit to Washington to mark the 10th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties with the United States.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice complained last week about the delay in the Senate confirmation hearing of a new deputy for public diplomacy as she prepared to leave on her trip to the Middle East.
She could have used Dina Powell, an Egyptian-born Arab speaker who has charmed the Egyptian press.
"I would hope that the Senate would also release Dina Powell ... because she's being held up for what I consider to be unrelated reasons, and it would be very useful to have her here and doing that work," Miss Rice said. …