HANOI, Vietnam – The Vietnamese capital once trembled as waves of American bombers unleashed their payloads, but when Kim Jong Un arrives at his summit with President Donald Trump, he will find no enemy against a former enemy. Instead, the North Korean leader gets an insight into the possible rewards of reconciliation.
When the Vietnam War ended in 1975, tens of thousands of tons of explosives had fallen on Hanoi and nearly two decades of fighting had killed 3 million Vietnamese and more than 58,000 Americans. Vietnam was victorious, but devastated by American firepower, cities in ruins and fields and forests drenched with toxic herbicides and littered with unexploded ordnance.
Despite the cruelty of the conflict, there was a remarkable rapprochement between opponents of war, and it took only 20 years to reestablish relations.
Now, some are hoping that Vietnam will provide Kim with a guidepost for his own relaxation with the United States, and that the formerly besieged capital will be the site of a dramatic solution to one of the recent cold weather war crises.
While North Korea remains the enemy of America 65 years after the end of the Korean War, Vietnam today is a burgeoning partner, even buying lethal US weapons. Bilateral trade has increased 8,000 percent over the past two decades, and US investment is billions of dollars in one of the world's best performing economies.
And while the North Koreans still rant Americans from their country's propaganda machine in Vietnam, there is little hostility.
"I was born after the war and only hear war stories from American films or books," said Dinh Thanh Huyen, a 1
Kim noted the history of win-win rapprochement and how the Vietnamese Communist leaders admitted a capitalist economy and an open door to the US and other outsiders to sacrifice the power. Or he could allow everything to pass him by, focusing on negotiations with nuclear weapons and economic sanctions for the summit on February 27-28.
US. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke last year in Hanoi about "the unimaginable wealth and partnership" that the US enjoys with Vietnam and noted that Vietnam was able to maintain its governance.
"I have a message for Chairman Kim Jong Un: President Trump believes that your country can repeat this path, it's up to you to seize the moment," he said. "This can also be your miracle in North Korea."
Although Vietnam remains a one-party state with a poor human rights record, even moderate critics and dissidents are often imprisoned.
Since the First Trump During the last summit in Singapore in June last year, some steps have already been taken by the thaw in the US and Vietnam. These included Pyongyang, which overturned the remnants of the US military killed in the Korean War for a decade.
It was the same issue missing in the plot that had ushered in the American-Vietnamese reconciliation, with the repatriation of American war dead, which would create an environment for improving relationships in other areas.
Next came the lifting step by step As Washington pushed ahead with the Vietnamese so-called "doi moi" reform, initiatives were initiated in 1986 to dismantle a state-dominated economy in favor of a market-oriented economy open to foreigners.
North Korea has already shown interest in Vietna m's reforms sent home students and official delegations with favorable reports. Vietnam has been in close relationship with North Korea since 1950 and could be the ideal middleman as it pushes Pyongyang to reshape its catastrophic economy and make enemies to friends.
"Vietnam's development model" doi moi "is an important factor in the United States' larger strategy to pull North Korea out of its self-imposed isolation as part of the larger process of denuclearization," said Carlyle Thayer, a political scientist at the University of New South Wales.
But Thayer and other experts share strong reservations about the extent to which the US-Vietnamese "miracle" can be duplicated. There are clear differences in the way North Korea reacted to the ending of the fighting.
The north closed its doors and slid into a bunker of the Cold War – and remains one of the most isolated nations in the world. However, Vietnam decided to leave its tragic past behind and make progress.
Not long after the war, American journalists and official US delegations were allowed access to a poor, shabby Hanoi whose charming French colonial buildings were neglected. The only clothes many men had were the sack-green uniforms and tropical helmets of the North Vietnamese army. The suspicion was felt, and Westerners, including journalists, were given thinkers to keep track of them.
The Americans expected a hostile reception and were amazed at the lack of hostility the average Vietnamese showed, even those who had relatives lost to the US Bombing Returning American veterans were often sent out for extra warm greetings, sometimes hugging theirs former enemies on the battlefield and exchanged stories about suffering.
To enable such scenes was a series of special circumstances. Some were geopolitical: Vietnam urgently needed a counterweight that the US could offer to its perennial enemy – neighboring China.
This has acquired a special urgency in recent years as Beijing aggressively resorts to large parts of the South China Sea. Revealing are the exchanges between the US and Vietnamese Coast Guard and the provision of US patrol boats. The USS Carl Vinson, an American aircraft carrier, made an historic harbor visit last year in Vietnam, the first of its kind since the end of the war.
Vietnam was no longer threatened by the United States, while North Korea perceives it This makes it difficult to abandon its nuclear program, perhaps even in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
But also a human element was at work.
"During the Vietnam War, Hanoi always distinguished between the two peace-loving American people and the imperialist American government," said Thayer. "There was a basis for future reconciliation."
The following personal encounters that led to the mitigation of mutual hostility never took place with North Korea. Instead, generations of North Korean children sat in classrooms and watched posters of Americans portrayed as large, nose-shaped goblins. A massive anti-American rally was in the focus of the annual calendar.
"The Vietnamese saw in the years of our war that many Americans and veterans opposed the war," said Bob Mulholland, a well-known Vietnam veteran. 19659003] And there were powerful proponents of reconciliation, including Sens. John Kerry and the recently deceased John McCain, as well as other veterans who have quietly returned to Vietnam to help the devastated country.
Although the Vietnam War has emerged from the war's collective memory in both countries, it is not the "forgotten war" under which the Korean conflict has long been known. With peace and greater prosperity, new connections have emerged that have been made by a younger generation. Close to the McDonald's in Old Hanoi, not far from a Starbucks, the area is closed to traffic every weekend, and entertainers, including American street vendors, are walking down the street now with US residents. covered with American and North Korean flags. The Vietnamese youth mingle with young American travelers.
Just a short walk away, tourist Brian Walker saw the Hanoi Military War Museum in front of the rubble of an American B-52 shot down in a bombing raid on the city.
"For many Americans, it may be a bloody war country we participated in," said the 28-year-old New York City social worker. "But when I come here, I only see people with big smiles, good food and beautiful scenery."
Gray reported from Bangkok.