The four nations involved in accounting for Americans missing in action from the Vietnam War closed their meeting Friday in Siem Reap, Cambodia, agreeing to intensify cooperation on losses in border areas.
The 2004 Consultations were hosted by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for POW/Missing Personel Affairs Jerry D. Jennings. Senior leaders from the United States, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam gathered to forge a common vision, share experiences and set a course for the future.
Last year’s gathering in Bangkok, was the first time the four nations had come together to hold such a meeting since the end of the war in 1975. The United States also continues to work with each of the countries individually to investigate MIA cases and excavate loss sites in an effort to recover, identify and return to the families in the United States the remains of missing Americans.
Expressing gratitude for the assistance the United States has received from Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, Jennings said, “Without your cooperation, this mission could not continue. We know that and the families and veterans know that.”
At the conclusion of the two-day session, the delegates agreed to reactivate senior-level trilateral discussions on cases in the border areas, where the United States will join either Vietnam and Laos, or Vietnam and Cambodia to mount a three-nation, or trilateral, effort for case resolution.
Additionally, the delegates established new mechanisms at the expert level to coordinate efforts on these cases. Special emphasis will be placed on the United States government’s highest priority cases, those involving servicemen last known to be alive (LKA) at the time of their incident of loss.
Resolving the LKA cases and improving trilateral investigations in the border areas are two tasks President Bush has identified as key to success in accounting for missing United States personnel. The multilateral consultations follow recent bilateral breakthroughs that also reflect President Bush’s push for greater cooperation. These include agreements between the United States and Vietnam, and the United States and Laos on initiatives to improve access to each country’s archival holdings, along with renewed access for investigations and recoveries in previously denied areas of the Central Highlands in Vietnam.
Since the end of the war, the United States has accounted for more than 700 Americans from the Vietnam War. More than 1,800 are unaccounted-for from the war. More than 88,000 are still missing from all conflicts.
Agence France-Presse reported that Laos had offered to host the next meeting of the four nations next year.
Click on our audio file above to listen to the report in Laos.