Timeline of US – Vietnam Engagement on Agent Orange

1995 The US and Vietnam restore diplomatic relations opening an Embassy in Hanoi in July 1995 headed by charge d ‘affairs Desaix Anderson. The first exchange of ambassadors occurs in 1996 with Pete Peterson a former POW in Vietnam as the first US Ambassador.

1997 The Vietnamese begin to raise the Agent Orange issue in bi-lateral meetings with Secretary General Do Moui telling US Treasurer Robert Rubin who is visiting Hanoi that “Along with the POW/MIA issue, Viet Nam hopes for the two countries to cooperate to resolve the heavy consequences of Agent Orange.”

June 2000 – Hatfield Group of Vancouver Canada briefs the US embassy on their findings in research on the environmental impacts of dioxin in Vietnam that found that dioxin is no longer found at high levels in the sprayed areas however there exists ‘hotspots’ of dioxin clearly connected to the herbicide program at former US military bases, especially those where the Ranch Hand program was located. Residents who live on or near these ‘hotspots’, or eat fish and animals from these ‘hotspots’ were found to have high levels of dioxin their blood showing that the dioxin has entered the food chain in limited areas of Vietnam. This opens an avenue of joint cooperation between the US and Vietnamese on Agent Orange.

November 2000 – A meeting between US and Vietnamese scientist is held in Singapore to explore the possibility of launching a joint research program to study the human and environmental health effects of Agent Orange and other herbicides used during the Vietnam War. The meeting ended without the two sides signing an MOU and revealed that both sides had different priorities on this issue. The Vietnamese insisted that the US also needed to address the humanitarian needs of those they believed to be ill or disabled due to Agent Orange and the US insisted that they must first have scientific proof of dioxins impact on human health.

2001 - The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Vietnamese scientist despite their differences explore areas of scientific cooperation on the issue of dioxin ‘hotspots’. The EPA sends Vietnamese scientists to Hawaii for training on environmental remediation techniques.

2002 - US-Vietnam conference on Human Health and Environmental Effects of Agent Orange/Dioxins held in Hanoi bringing together hundred of scientists specializing in dioxin from around the world. An MOU on Scientific cooperation is signed by the US and Viet Nam and the Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange/dioxin is formed.

2003 - Negotiations on developing a joint research project begin but do not go well as neither side can agree on the research protocols. The US embassy in a memo marked ‘sensitive’ to the State Department blames the Vietnamese for waging a two-decade ‘propaganda campaign’ on Agent Orange’s health impacts and theorizes that the Vietnamese are afraid that the studies will reveal that dioxin has had no adverse health effects in Vietnam therefore ruining their efforts to get compensation out of the US. Despite this the first US-Viet Nam workshop on remediation of dioxin was held.

2003-2005 - US National Institute of Environmental and Health Science (NIEHS) sends several delegations to Vietnam and hosted Vietnamese scientists in the US to negotiate a joint research project on the possible relationship between Agent Orange and birth defects. The research project was cancelled by NIEHS in March 2005 when both sides were unable to reach agreement on the research protocols. Each side lays blame at the other for the failure to reach an agreement.

2005 - A second workshop on remediation techniques was held in Hanoi in August 2005 co-sponsored by the US Department of Defense and the Viet Nam Ministry of Defense. The US EPA, the Vietnam Ministry of Defense and the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) began a $2 million project to measure dioxin in soil at the Da Nang airbase. The US also donated a gas chromatograph / mass spectrometer (GC/MS) valued at $500,000 to VAST and provided training to use the equipment.

2006 – In June the Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange formed in 2002 made up of US and Vietnamese government officials and experts held its first meeting to explore areas of scientific cooperation. The Vietnamese proposed that JAC should propose to ‘accelerate cooperation’ on environmental clean-up, care and treatment of dioxin victims and scientific research. The US delegation only agrees that scientific cooperation is to be a part of the JAC discussions.

November 2006 - President Bush and Vietnam’s President Triet declared in their Joint Statement that “further joint efforts to address the environmental contamination near former dioxin storage sites would make a valuable contribution to the continued development of their bilateral relations.”

May 2007With an initiative by Senator Leahy the US Congress allocated $3 million to “address remediation of dioxin hotspots in Vietnam and to support public health programs in the surrounding communities.” A second meeting of the JAC was held in August where the US stressed that the JAC was not a political body but a scientific advisory committee on the issue of Agent Orange/dioxin.

2008After a year of inter-departmental discussions on how to handle the $3 million allocation for Agent Orange USAIDputs out a request for proposals for the first installment of the allocation for programs to address the public health needs of those living around the Da Nang Dioxin hotspot. Three US Non-governmental organizations are awarded grants totaling $1 million. The third meeting of the JAC was held in September where two tasks forces were formed, one to focus on environmental issue and the second on health issues.

2009 - In March the US Congress allocated an additional $3 million in FY2009 to address the impact of Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam. In September 2009 the fourth meeting of the Joint Advisory Group was held in Hanoi agreeing to set up protocols for the a health task force to gather information on the adverse health effects of dioxin in Vietnam. USAID awards $1.69 million contract for the dioxin work at the Da Nang airbase to CDM International. In December Congress allocated an additional $3 million to address the impacts of Agent Orange in Vietnam in the FY2010 Foreign Operations bill and stated that the funds “may be made available for assistance for the Government of Vietnam, including the military, for such purposes.”

2010 - CDM and Hatfield consultants begin their testing of the Da Nang hotspot. The US Embassy requests additional funding in the FY2011 budget for the dioxin remediation clean-up in Da Nang. The environmental Impact Study on the clean-up of the Da Nang Airbase is completed and the In-Pile Thermal Desorption process is recommended as the remediation technology. USAID and Vietnam Ministry of National Defence (MND) sign a Memorandum of Intent for implementation of the Da Nang Airport Remediation Project. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton travels to Vietnam in July for an ASEAN meeting and to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the normalization of relations between the US and Vietnam.

2011 -  The Prime Minister of Vietnam and MND approve plans for the Da Nang Airport Remediation Project.  

2012 - USAID and MND launch the implementation of the Da Nang Airport Remediation Project on August 9, 2012. $9 million Persons with Disabilities Support Prograam is begun in Da Nang by DAI and VNAH. 

2013 - The containment and treatment structure at the Da Nang Airport project is built and the contaminated soil for the first phase of treatment is excavated. 45,000 cubic meters of contaminated soil and sediment is placed in the treatment structure. 

2014 - Phase I treatment of soil is begun at the Da Nang Airport. Excavation of the contaminate soil/sediment for Phase II is begun. USAID requests proposals for up to $21 Million in grants over the next five years for programs to support people with disabilties in Vietnam focused on areas that were 'heavily sprayed with Agent Orange". 

2015 - Treatment of Phase I soils is completed with dioxin reduced to within the 150 ppt range. Treated soil is remove from the structure. USAID awards grants to six organizations to provided services to people with disablities in Vietnam.

2016 - Phase II soil and sediment loaded into the treatment structure and treatment begun.


 

Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange/Dioxin: Membership


Vietnam

  • Office 33 (co-chair)
  • Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Ministry of Defense
  • Ministry of Health
  • Vietnam Association of Science and Technology
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs

United States

  • US Environmental Protection Agency (co-chair)
  • Health and Human Services
  • Department of Defense
  • USAID
  • Department of State
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