Washington is to fund crack teams of Vietnamese security forces to wipe out drug trails over the country's mountainous borders. United Nations officials this week confirmed involvement from the United States and Belgium in the first scheme of its kind between the West and Vietnam's traditionally secretive Interior Ministry. More than US$730,000 (HK$5.64 million) will be spent over three years in an ambitious drive to improve training, communications and intelligence-gathering in a battle against major Southeast Asian traffickers now exploiting Vietnam's open-door policies. Special teams comprising police, border guards and Customs officers will conduct random searches and surveillance at two key border points with Laos and China. One is in Nghe An province, home to Vietnam's last remaining opium fields and next to massive crops in Laos, and the other is in Lai Chau in the far northwest - the closest point in Vietnam to the Golden Triangle. Lai Chau is famed for corruption and was once the base of a senior federal policeman arrested recently after a confession from a Laotian dealer facing execution. Vu Xuan Trung was taken from his house with nearly US$100,000 in cash, five kilograms of heroin and several guns. 'We believe this will be a very positive step in stopping drugs destined for both Vietnam and other parts of Asia, North America and Europe,' said Jorn Kristensen, senior co-ordinator for the United Nations' Drug Control Programme in Vietnam. Vietnamese police and Western diplomats say a combination of newly opened borders, inexperienced and poorly paid officers and tougher action in China and Thailand mean Vietnam is the new 'El Dorado' for heroin traders. And as the drug moves across borders to ports and airports, heroin use is spiralling in the far north. Towns near the Chinese border have hundreds of addicts, some reportedly as young as eight. The scheme is part of a recently approved plan that involves UN-sponsored crop-substitution. Aid from Washington - which only cemented ties with its former enemy a year ago - remains minimal. US diplomats said, however, that soaring heroin use in American cities meant that 'drug politics' were giving momentum to its rocky new relationship with Vietnam. 'It is a first for us, but co-operation is getting better and we hope to stop the flow and get a hell of a lot more intelligence with this effort,' one source said.