Vietnam, USA full clearance of toxic chemicals from the airport
05:52 EST, November 7, 2018
19:33 EST, November 7, 2018
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) – Vietnam and the United States have completed the remediation of dioxin contamination at Danang airport, caused by the transport and storage of the weed killer Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.
The 30 hectares of land cleansed of the toxic chemicals were handed over to Vietnam at a ceremony on Wednesday, where Deputy Minister of Defense Nguyen Chi Vinh praised US involvement in the clearance.
"It is proof that we are opening a future of good cooperation between the governments of Vietnam and the United States," said Vinh. "Today is the day that Danang airport is no longer known as a dioxin hotspot, the day when people of Danang can be sure that their health will not be destroyed by chemicals left behind after the war."
Large quantities of Agent Orange, containing dioxin, were stored at Danang airport during the war and sprayed by American troops to defoliate the countryside and deny the jungle hunting of communist hunters. Vietnamese people still suffer from the effects of spraying.
The American ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink called the joint clearance a major milestone in the growing cooperation between the two countries.
"This project is truly a hallmark of our countries' shared vision of being honest about the past, dealing responsibly with remaining old issues and turning a controversy into a partnership," he said.
FILE – In this August 9, 2012, photo of the file, there is a warning sign in a field contaminated with dioxin near the airport of Danang, during a ceremony marking the beginning of a project to remove dioxin that remains after the war in Vietnam, in a former US military base in Danang, Vietnam. The sign reads; "Dioxin contamination zone – livestock, poultry and fishing activities are not allowed." Vietnam and the United States are ready to clean up dioxin contamination at the airport caused by the transport and storage of the herbicide on and around the area. (AP Photo / Maika Elan, File)
Kritenbrink said to work together on the problems of the past "builds strategic trust and enables us to further strengthen our forward-looking cooperation that promotes shared interests and strong ties from person to person."
Between 1962 and 1971 the US Army sprayed about 11 million liters of Agent Orange over large parts of South Vietnam. Dioxin remains in the soil for generations and in the sediment at the bottom of lakes and rivers. It can enter the food supply through the fat of fish and other animals.
Vietnam says that as many as 4 million of its citizens were exposed to the herbicide and as many as 3 million have diseases due to it – including the children of people who were exposed during the war.
The US government says the actual number of affected people is much lower and that Vietnamese people are too quick to blame Agent Orange for birth defects that can be caused by malnutrition or other factors.
Last month, the US Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, visited the Bien Hoa air base north of Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, another dioxin hotspot.
The US Agency for International Development will soon start a soil remediation project on the basis that is estimated to take several years and cost 390 million dollars.
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