by Michael F. Martin, Analyst in Trade and Finance
Congressional Research Service
Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, there has been a gradual warming of bilateral relations between the United States and Vietnam, culminating in the appointment of the first U.S. ambassador to Vietnam in 1996 and granting Vietnam permanent normal trade relations (PNTR) in 2007. Over the last three decades, many — but not all — of the major issues causing tension between the two nations have been resolved.
One major legacy of the Vietnam War that remains unresolved is the damage that Agent Orange, and its accompanying dioxin, have done to the people and the environment of Vietnam. For the last 30 years, this issue has generally been pushed to the background of bilateral discussions by other issues considered more important by the United States and/or Vietnam. With most of those issues presently resolved, the issue of Agent Orange/dioxin has emerged as a regular topic in bilateral discussions.
According to various estimates, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 11-12 million gallons of Agent Orange over nearly 10% of Vietnamese territory between 1961 and 1971. One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange; Vietnamese advocacy groups claims that there are over one million Vietnamese suffering from serious health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange…