U.S. Department of State  
Background Notes: Vietnam, August 1995  
Bureau of Public Affairs  
  
  
August 1995  
Official Name: Socialist Republic of Vietnam  
  
PROFILE  
  
Geography  
  
Area: 329,560 sq. km. (127,243 sq. mi.); larger than Virginia, North   
Carolina, and South Carolina combined.  
Cities (1994): Capital--Hanoi (3.5 million); Other cities--Ho Chi   
Minh City (formerly Saigon--5 million); Haiphong (1.5 million).  
Terrain: Varies from mountainous to coastal delta.  
Climate: Tropical monsoon.  
  
People  
  
Nationality:  Noun and adjective--Vietnamese (sing. and pl.).  
Population (1994): 74 million.  
Annual growth rate (1994): 2.4%.  
Ethnic groups: Vietnamese (85%-90%), Chinese, Muong, Thai, Khmer,   
Cham, mountain groups.  
Religions: Buddhism, Hoa Hao, Cao Dai, Christian (predominantly Roman   
Catholic, some Protestant), animism, Islam.  
Languages: Vietnamese, English (increasingly favored as a second   
language), some French, Chinese, Khmer, mountain area languages.  
Literacy: 88%.  
Health: Infant mortality rate--36/1000. Life expectancy--63 yrs.   
male, 67 yrs. female.  
  
Government  
  
Type: Communist people's republic.  
Independence: Sept. 2, 1945.  
Reunification: July 2, 1976.  
New constitution: 1992.  
Branches: Executive--president (head of state and chair of National   
Defense and Security Council) and prime minister (heads cabinet of   
ministries and commissions); "People's Committees" governing in local   
jurisdictions.  Legislative--National Assembly; locally, People's   
Councils. Judicial--Supreme People's Court.  
Administrative subdivisions: 50 provinces, 3 municipalities under   
central government control, one special zone; urban quarters and   
rural districts; urban precincts and rural communes.  
Political party: Vietnamese Communist Party, formerly (1951-76)   
Vietnam Worker's Party, itself the successor of the Indochinese   
Communist Party founded in 1930.  
Suffrage: Universal at 18.  
  
Economy  
  
GDP (1994): $15.4 billion.  
Real growth rate (1994): 8.8%.  
Per capita income (1994): $220.  
Natural resources: Phosphates, coal, manganese, bauxite, chromate,   
offshore oil deposits, forests, rubber, marine products.  
Agriculture (36% of GDP--38% of export earnings):  Products--rice,   
rubber, fruit, vegetables, corn, manioc, sugar cane, coffee, fish.   
Industry (26% of GDP-- 34% of total exports): Food processing,   
textiles, cement, chemical fertilizers, steel, electric power.  
Trade (1994): Exports--$3.6 billion: crude oil, textiles, marine   
products, rice (third-largest exporter in world) and coal. Major   
partners--Japan (22%), Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea, and China.   
Imports--$4.5 billion: petroleum, steel products, transport-related   
equipment, chemicals, fertilizers, medicines, raw cotton.  Major   
partners--Singapore (28%), Japan, South Korea, France, and Taiwan.   
Exports to U.S.--$50 million. Imports from U.S.--$172 million.  
  
U.S.-VIETNAM RELATIONS  
  
President Clinton announced the normalization of diplomatic relations   
with Vietnam on July 11, 1995. This followed the establishment of   
Liaison Offices in Hanoi and Washington, DC, in January 1995 and the   
lifting of the U.S. trade embargo on Vietnam in February 1994.   
American companies have entered the Vietnamese market, and the U.S.   
is now the eighth-largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with more than   
$530 million committed in 34 projects as of June 1995.  
  
The U.S. maintains an active dialogue with Vietnam on issues   
concerning Americans missing from the war in Vietnam. It has been   
U.S. policy since the early 1980s that normalization of relations   
with Vietnam be based on withdrawal of the Vietnamese military from   
Cambodia as part of a comprehensive political settlement--such a   
settlement was signed in October 1992--and continued cooperation on   
the prisoner of war/missing in action (POW/MIA) issue and other   
humanitarian concerns.  
  
In the 1980s, the United States and Vietnam developed and sustained   
an active relationship on a range of humanitarian issues,   
particularly on achieving the fullest accounting possible of   
Americans missing and unaccounted for in Indochina. The two countries   
agreed to handle these issues as a separate, humanitarian agenda,   
without reference to political differences.  
  
In June 1993, progress in repatriating the remains of American   
servicemen increased, and a Vietnamese Government office was   
established in Ho Chi Minh City to facilitate better accounting   
operations in the south. A month later, the U.S. dropped its   
objection to bilateral and multilateral lending to Vietnam. In 1994,   
based on significant cooperation on the part of the Vietnamese on   
POW/MIA issues, President Clinton removed the American trade embargo   
on Vietnam. Since the lifting of the embargo, cooperation with   
Vietnam on POW/MIA issues has increased. In January 1995, the two   
countries opened liaison offices in their respective capitals, and on   
July 11, President Clinton announced the establishment of diplomatic   
relations with Vietnam.  
  
Since January 1993, 167 sets of remains believed to be American have   
been returned to the U.S., and 42 Americans have been identified.   
Investigators have made a determination of the fate of 80 of 135   
discrepancy cases--where individuals could have survived but did not   
return alive and remain unaccounted for--leaving only 55 individuals   
whose fates are unresolved. Achieving the fullest possible accounting   
for those who did not return from the war remains the   
administration's highest priority in its relations with Vietnam.  
  
Principal U.S. Embassy Officials  
  
Charge d'Affaires--Desaix Anderson  
  
The U.S. embassy in Hanoi is at 7 Lang Ha Road, and the mailing   
address is USLO Hanoi, PSC 461, Box 400, FPO AP 96521-0002 (tel. 844-  
431-500 through 507; fax 844-350-484).  
  
GOVERNMENT AND  POLITICAL CONDITIONS  
  
The most important political institution in Vietnam is the Communist   
Party of Vietnam (formerly the Vietnam Worker's Party), headed by   
General Secretary Do Muoi. Sweeping amendments to the country's 1981   
constitution were approved in April 1992, introducing a major   
restructuring of the government while reaffirming the role of the   
Communist Party of Vietnam as the leading force of state and society.  
  
The Communist Party  
  
According to the constitution, the Communist Party must operate   
within the framework of the laws of the country and is separated from   
the day-to-day operation of the government. In reality, however,   
government policy remains largely the prerogative of the communist   
leadership.  
  
The Communist Party Central Committee membership is elected from the   
large and unwieldy national Party Congress, which is supposed to   
gather every five years and last met in 1991.  The Central Committee   
represents less than 10% of the national Party Congress and meets   
about twice a year.  
  
Government policy is set by the all-powerful party Politburo and   
carried out by the Secretariat, the governmental organ which oversees   
day-to-day policy implementation. Many major policy directives are   
issued as Central Committee resolutions but are formulated by the   
Politburo; many others emanate directly from the Politburo.  
  
Overlapping party and state positions continue to be held even though   
there has been some effort to discourage both that practice and   
direct party interference in government affairs. All but six out of   
17 party Politburo members held high positions in the government as   
of 1994, and 92% of the deputies in the National Assembly are party   
members. This is also the case at lower levels, where provincial,   
district, and village party officials dominate the administrative   
councils.  
  
Although the rate of new membership in the Communist Party has   
decreased since the 1980s, the party remains the dominant institution   
in Vietnamese society.  
  
Government Structure  
  
The most important powers within the Vietnamese Government--as   
opposed to the Communist Party--are the executive agencies: the   
offices of the president and the prime minister (most of whose   
members are also on the party's Central Committee).  
  
In 1992, the collective Council of State--which had served as the   
parliament's standing committee and whose chairman acted as   
ceremonial head of state--was abolished.  It was replaced by an   
office of the president with authority over the armed forces and the   
power to recommend the dismissal of government officials (subject to   
the approval of the National Assembly). The revised constitution also   
replaced the cumbersome Council of Ministers with a cabinet headed by   
the prime minister.  
  
The Vietnamese President, Le Duc Anh, functions as head of state but   
also serves as commander of the armed forces and chairman of the   
Council on National Defense and Security. According to the   
constitution, these bodies, as well as the heads of ministries and   
commissions, are elected by the National Assembly. Prime Minister  Vo   
Van Kiet heads a cabinet composed of three deputy prime ministers as   
well as the directors of the country's 31 ministries and commissions.   
Four members of the Prime Minister's cabinet are concurrently members   
of the Politburo.  
  
The National Assembly--which under the 1992 constitutional revisions   
was granted an increase in its authority and independence--is   
designated as the highest representative body of the people and the   
only body with legislative powers. Its members are elected every five   
years, and it meets twice yearly.  
  
The constitutional amendments of 1992 strengthened the legislative   
and oversight powers of the National Assembly, giving it more   
authority over defense and security policy and financial matters. The   
assembly's standing committee and permanent committees were granted   
new powers as well. The constitution also provided for choice in   
parliamentary election balloting, which, for the first time,   
permitted non-party members to be elected in 1992.  
  
Although the National Assembly theoretically exercises wide lawmaking   
and appointive authority, in the past, it has simply given formal   
approval to proposals from the executive organs.  
  
The chairman of the National Assembly is Nong Duc Manh, the first   
member of an ethnic minority to hold this post and the first to   
simultaneously command a position in the Politburo.  
  
Local legislative bodies, called People's Councils, are elected at   
provincial, district, and village levels. The councils choose   
administrative committees that handle routine business on the local   
level and are ultimately responsible to the office of the prime   
minister. Their function is more executive than legislative.  
  
Principal Officials  
  
General Secretary of the Communist Party--Do Muoi  
Prime Minister--Vo Van Kiet  
President--Le Duc Anh  
National Assembly Chairman--Nong Duc Manh  
  
The embassy of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam is at 1233 20th St.   
NW, Suite 501, Washington, DC 20036 (tel. 202-861-0737; fax 202-861-  
0917).  
  
TRAVEL AND BUSINESS INFORMATION  
  
The U.S. Department of State's Consular Information Program provides   
Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets. Travel Warnings are   
issued when the State Department recommends that Americans avoid   
travel to a certain country. Consular Information Sheets exist for   
all countries and include information on immigration practices,   
currency regulations, health conditions, areas of instability, crime   
and security, political disturbances, and the addresses of the U.S.   
posts in the subject country. They can be obtained by telephone at   
(202) 647-5225 or by fax at (202) 647-3000. To access the Consular   
Affairs Bulletin Board by computer, dial (202) 647-9225, via a modem   
with standard settings. Bureau of Consular Affairs' publications on   
obtaining passports and planning a safe trip aboard are available   
from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing   
Office, Washington, DC 20402, tel. (202) 783-3238.  
  
Emergency information concerning Americans traveling abroad may be   
obtained from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at (202) 647-  
5225.  
  
Travelers can check the latest health information with the U.S.   
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. A   
hotline at (404) 332-4559 gives the most recent health advisories,   
immunization recommendations or requirements, and advice on food and   
drinking water safety for regions and countries. A booklet entitled   
Health Information for International Travel (HHS publication number   
CDC-94-8280, price $7.00) is available from the U.S. Government   
Printing Office, Washington, DC 20420, tel. (202) 512-1800.  
  
Information on travel conditions, visa requirements, currency and   
customs regulations, legal holidays, and other items of interest to   
travelers also may be obtained before your departure from a country's   
embassy and/or consulates in the U.S. (for this country, see   
"Principal Officials" listing in this publication).  
  
Upon their arrival in a country, U.S. citizens are encouraged to   
register at the U.S. embassy (see "Principal U.S. Embassy Officials"   
listing in this publication). This may help family members contact   
you en route in case of an emergency.  
  
Further Electronic Information:  
  
Consular Affairs Bulletin Board (CABB). Available by modem, the CABB   
provides Consular Information Sheets, Travel Warnings, and helpful   
information for travelers. Access at (202) 647-9225 is free of charge   
to anyone with a personal computer, modem, telecommunications   
software, and a telephone line.  
  
Department of State Foreign Affairs Network. Available on the   
Internet, DOSFAN provides timely, global access to official U.S.   
foreign policy information. Updated daily, DOSFAN includes Background   
Notes; Dispatch, the official weekly magazine of U.S. foreign policy;   
daily press briefings; directories of key officers of foreign service   
posts; etc. DOSFAN is accessible three ways on the Internet:  
  
Gopher: dosfan.lib.uic.edu  
URL: gopher://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/  
WWW: http://dosfan.lib.uic.edu/dosfan.html  
  
U.S. Foreign Affairs on CD-ROM (USFAC). Published on a quarterly   
basis by the U.S. Department of State, USFAC archives information on   
the Department of State Foreign Affairs Network, and includes an   
array of official foreign policy information from 1990 to the   
present. Priced at $80 ($100 foreign), one-year subscriptions include   
four discs (MSDOS and Macintosh compatible) and are available from   
the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,   
P.O. Box 37194, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954. To order, call (202) 512-  
1800 or fax (202) 512-2250.  
  
Federal Bulletin Board (BBS). A broad range of foreign policy   
information also is carried on the BBS, operated by the U.S.   
Government Printing Office (GPO). By modem, dial (202) 512-1387. For   
general BBS information, call (202) 512-1530.  
  
National Trade Data Bank (NTDB). Operated by the U.S. Department of   
Commerce, the NTDB contains a wealth of trade-related information,   
including Country Commercial Guides. It is available on the Internet   
(gopher.stat-usa.gov) and on CD-ROM. Call the NTDB Help-Line at (202)   
482-1986 for more information.  
  
========================================  
Background Notes Series -- Published by the United States Department   
of State -- Bureau of Public Affairs -- Office of Public   
Communication -- Washington, DC --  Managing Editor: Peter A. Knecht  
  
Vietnam -- Department of State Publication 8955 -- August 1995 --   
Editor: Marilyn J. Bremner  
  
This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without   
permission; citation of this source is appreciated.  For sale by the   
Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office,   
Washington, DC 20402.  
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