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Clinton Trip Aimed Toward Vietnam

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AP) — President Clinton planned meetings with the leaders of Russia and China at an Asian economic summit before continuing on a mission to strengthen relations with wartime adversary Vietnam.

Clinton arrived in Brunei during a thunderstorm Tuesday night. His daughter, Chelsea, followed him off Air Force One, holding an umbrella over his head. They moved quickly through a receiving line.

While on a refueling stop in Hawaii on Monday, Clinton spoke with Hawaii Gov. Ben Cayetano and was driven to a nearby beach resort where he and daughter Chelsea took an afternoon walk.

The president's first Asian stop was in Brunei, where than 20 Asian-Pacific leaders were gathering for an economic summit.

Besides Chelsea, Clinton was being accompanied on Air Force One by his mother-in-law, Dorothy Rodham.

His wife, Sen.-elect Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., will join the president in Vietnam after attending the funeral Wednesday of Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

While at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Clinton planned to confer with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

But the highlights on his itinerary were visits to Hanoi, the capital of a unified Vietnam, and to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.

The trip is the first ever to a unified Vietnam by an American president. It comes 25 years after U.S.-backed South Vietnam surrendered to North Vietnam, leaving in doubt the fate of many Americans classified as missing in action.

Clinton spoke about the sensitivity of the issue, especially among U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War and among the families of those still missing, during a Veterans Day speech Saturday at Arlington National Cemetery.

``Our nation has sought to move forward in developing these relations in a way that both honors those who fought and suffered there, and does right by the missing and their families,'' the president said.

Noting that the remains of 283 Americans have been repatriated since he took office in 1993, Clinton said he will visit the site where U.S. and Vietnamese teams are searching for remains of Air Force Capt. Lawrence Evert, missing since his plane was shot down on Nov. 8, 1969.

``In our national memory, Vietnam was a war,'' he said. ``But Vietnam is also a country, a country emerging from almost 50 years of conflict, upheaval and isolation, and turning its face to a very different world, a country that can succeed in this new global age only if it becomes more interdependent and open to the world.''

An antiwar activist during his college years, Clinton has undertaken a cautious re-engagement with Vietnam. He lifted a trade embargo in 1994; the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi opened in 1996. And last July, after four years of negotiations, the United States and Vietnam reached agreement on allowing generally unfettered commerce for the first time since the war.
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