Clinton Makes Historic Visit to Vietnam

ByABC News
November 16, 2000, 10:47 AM

H A N O I, Vietnam, Nov. 16 -- The American president who opposed the war in Vietnam and avoided military service here three decades ago, arrived in Hanoi today on a mission to redefine U.S. relations.

Ahead of his arrival, President Clinton said he hoped his presence opens a new page in our relations hopefully one that will put an end to the divisions.

It was nearly midnight in Hanoi when Air Force One landed so his official welcome to the capital had to wait until Friday morning. But the Clinton schedule in Vietnam includes very little time with its communist leadership.

No other U.S. leader has ever officially visited Hanoi and he is the first to visit Vietnam since U.S. troops withdrew from the country in 1975.

Richard Nixon was the last serving president to visit theregion when he traveled to the former U.S.-backed South Vietnam in July 1969 when the war was raging. Clinton, the present-day U.S. commander-in-chief, avoided the conflict.

Clintons only focus on the past is for a full accounting of the American servicemen still missing in action since the war.

He is scheduled to observe work Saturday at the excavation site of an America jet-fighter which crashed in 1967 near Hanoi.

The jet was piloted by Air Force Capt. Lawrence Evert. Clinton has invited Everts two sons to join him at the site.

Clinton is seeking as much exposure as possible to Vietnams younger generations, too young to remember the war.

In the 1970s, Clinton avoided the draft and protested the U.S. presence in Vietnam.

On Friday, Clinton will deliver a major presidential address at Hanoi University, to be broadcast live on national television.

Hillary Charms Hanoi

But several hours before the president arrived, the Clinton charm had already worked its magic on the streets of Vietnam.

Drawing screaming crowds of hundreds of local people, First Lady and Senator-elect Hillary Clinton arrived in Hanoi hours before the president. She flew in directly from Israel, where she attended the funeral of Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Wednesday.