Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: 25th Anniversary of Peace Trees Vietnam Dinner Reception

Monday, January 6, 2020
Intercontinental Hotel, Hanoi

I would like to first thank my friend Jerilyn Brusseau, Peace Trees Co-founder, and her team for organizing this dinner tonight, and for the opportunity to meet the members of Peace Trees Citizen Diplomacy Delegation. I am happy to see many long-time friends who have done so much to support the development of ties between the United States and Vietnam:

Ambassador Nguyễn Phương Nga, Chairwoman of Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations; Ambassador Nguyễn Tâm Chiến, President of the Vietnam-U.S. Society and former Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States; other Former Vietnamese Ambassadors to the United States Phạm Quang Vinh, Ambassador 2014-2018; Nguyễn Quốc Cường, Ambassador 2011-2014; Lê Công Phụng, Ambassador 2008-2011.

It is especially gratifying when my duties as U.S. Ambassador allow me to meet those like you – in government service or in the many non-governmental organizations like Peace Trees – whose work has changed the lives of so many Vietnamese people and helped address war legacy issues. That work has directly contributed to the positive trajectory of ties between our two countries.

This year, 2020, marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam. Peace Trees has been here in Vietnam exactly as long, and has played an invaluable role in helping us address the past while building for the future.

The story of Peace Trees – of transforming tragedy and conflict into peace and partnership – is also the story of United States and Vietnam.

And so I am thrilled that tonight we can feature the outstanding work and accomplishments of Peace Trees over the last 25 years – from the early beginnings in Quảng Trị province, to work all across Vietnam.

Your work is vitally important. Because of you, farmers can harvest their cassava fields without fear. Because of you, mothers can send their children outside to play without worrying what they might find in the yard. Because of many of you in this room, not a single man, woman or child was a victim of a UXO-related injury in Quảng Trị province for the last two years.

Your work defines who we are as Americans and represents some of the very best values of our country – we are shaped by the past, but are optimistic and always strive to build a peaceful and prosperous future.

The Vietnamese share these values with us, which I see every day. I saw this when I visited Krông Klang commune, in Da Krông District, last August and met with the deminers who work for Peace Trees to build better lives.

I saw this when I went with the provincial Vice Chairman of Quảng Trị Province Hoàng Nam. We visited the Trường Sơn National Cemetery. The visit symbolized our relations with Vietnam: focused on the future, but honoring the past and those who served during the war.

Twenty-five years ago, when the United States and Vietnam established diplomatic relations, we and Vietnam committed to face together the legacies of war and its impact on citizens in both countries. We have come a long way. Today, our nations are trusted partners with a friendship grounded in mutual respect. Nothing has advanced our bilateral relationship more than our cooperation on humanitarian missions and war legacies.

The U.S. Mission Vietnam’s goal is for the United States to be a vital partner in supporting the development of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam that contributes to international security; engages in free, fair, and reciprocal trade; and respects human rights and the rule of law.

Today, the U.S.-Vietnam relationship is stronger than it has ever been. Together, we have forged a Comprehensive Partnership that covers every aspect of the relationship, from defense, to trade, to health, to people-to-people ties.

I am reminded of something that my dear friend and predecessor, Ambassador Pete Peterson, once told me: Many people look at the U.S.-Vietnam relationship and call our progress a miracle. This is false.

While what we continue to accomplish is impressive and a symbol of how two countries can forge a new partnership based on historical challenges, it is not by accident.

Everything we have achieved has been built on the painstaking work of those who worked in Vietnam before. It is the result of work done by people right here in this room. Every day, each induvial in this room helps the U.S.-Vietnam relationship grow by building trust: trust between counterparts, trust among communities, and trust between our two countries.

With the foundations of trust, our two countries are working together with a common sense of purpose, for our mutual benefit – the very definition of a comprehensive partnership.

Trust means we are a partner Vietnam can count on. It means when we say we will do something, we mean it – and will do it. Our continued commitment to addressing the legacies of war is a testament to this.

The U.S. Government increased our level of funding to the UXO program in Vietnam from $12.5 million last year to $15 million this year. This will enable our implementing partners to expand the humanitarian demining work to Quang Binh Province. This is evidence of our commitment to addressing war legacies issues.

As we celebrate a quarter century of partnership in 2020, let us renew our commitment to work together to ensure a bright future full of peace and prosperity for the American and Vietnamese people. Because we know: As trusted partners, we prosper together.

Again, thank you very much for the honor of attending this important dinner.

And to all my Vietnamese friends, chúc Mừng Năm Mới!