PRIME Minister Vo Van Kiet, seeking to avoid 'invoking hatred' with official celebrations this weekend marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, said yesterday he wanted full ties with the United States as soon as possible.
Mr Kiet said it was time for the US to 'close the door' on the past, saying he wanted to maximise relations on all fronts.
'It is high time for Vietnam and the United States to establish full diplomatic relations,' Mr Kiet said in a rare briefing to foreign reporters.
'Full cultural and economic ties can benefit both countries . . . and help the development of peace, stability and co-operation in the Asian Pacific region,' he said.
The recent revelations by key US architect of the war, former Defence Secretary Robert McNamara, who broke a long silence to admit the US was 'wrong, terribly wrong', would help create 'greater understanding' for all involved, Mr Kiet said.
Vietnam was actively seeking friendship with all countries, in particular those in the region, and its upcoming accession to the Association of South East Asian Nations would dramatically boost relations.
The recent opening of liaison offices in Washington and Hanoi had greatly helped the process, coming 12 months after the end of the 19-year US economic embargo against Vietnam, Mr Kiet said.
This weekend's celebrations, set to include military and civilian parades in the heart of Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, were vital for the 'motivation' of Vietnamese at home and abroad.
They would help create bonds and international friendship, while boosting the 'peace and development' that independence had brought.
'We do not intend to invoke hatred,' Mr Kiet said, saying that it had to be understood Vietnam was still suffering from nearly 100 years of colonialism under the French and 40 years of 'fierce wars against strong foreign aggressors'.
'This has all brought terribly heavy consequences for our country,' Mr Kiet said.
'There is hardly any family in this country that has not been touched in some way.
'Our history has shown that there is not one single difference between the north, the centre and the south . . . our independence is a source of national pride and strength, bringing peace and freedom.' Mr Kiet threw his weight behind continued socialist leadership of Vietnam, adding that he was 'greatly concerned' at the dangers of economic colonialism as Vietnam continued to open-up, but that Vietnam was committed to progress.
The full pace of growth had not yet been reached.
To compensate, the Government had to strive to develop the social and cultural lives of Vietnam's 72 million people.
'The price of each reform cannot be avoided,' Mr Kiet, saying he was still battling 'social evils' such as corruption.
'We must strive to reduce the development gap . . . and I don't think there is any success without price.' When asked about the future of socialism in a country now rapidly changing under free-market reforms, Mr Kiet said he believed the two could exist in a 'harmonious balance'.
No one system could be transplanted on Vietnam, given its history and culture, but the leadership was 'selective' in adapting and enhancing foreign models.
'Socialism brings well-being and happiness for the people of Vietnam . . . this path is not a simple one,' Mr Kiet said.