Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich has asked the United States to actively cooperate with Vietnam in a project to remove dioxins from a military airport in the southern province of Dong Nai.
Minister Lich made the suggestion during his meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday afternoon.
Secretary Mattis paid a visit to the dioxin-contaminated zone at the Bien Hoa Airbase, located in the namesake city in Dong Nai, on the morning of the same day.
Dioxin is a highly toxic chemical compound which is known to cause serious problems with reproduction, development, and the immune system. A great deal of scientific research also links the chemical to hormone disruption and cancer.
The U.S. secretary previously joined talks with Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh City Party Committee Nguyen Thien Nhan on Tuesday, within the framework of his visit to the city on October 16 and 17.
According to the U.S. official, the visit, including his trip to the Bien Hoa Airbase, provides the basis for him to report to and convince the U.S. government to continue aiding Vietnam’s efforts to deal with war consequences, including the removal of dioxin/Agent Orange.
Lich praised the U.S.’s efforts to help Vietnam remove dioxins in the past years, stressing that the Southeast Asian country will continue focusing on such activities.
He requested the U.S. to further collaborate with Vietnam to soon initiate and complete dioxin decontamination projects at the Bien Hoa Airbase, which the U.S. military used for storing herbicides in wartime.
Once the project is finished, land plots in the area will be utilized to contribute to economic development.
The first phase of the plan is expected to take ten years and cost about $390 million, which will be funded by the U.S. government’s financial assistance and the corresponding fund of the Vietnamese government.
An official from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), who accompanied Secretary Mattis during his trip, said that the detoxification could begin in early 2019.
In September 2017, a project worth nearly $12 million was initiated to prepare for the elimination of dioxin contamination at the Bien Hoa Airbase.
It was funded by the central government and implemented by the Vietnam People’s Air Force.