Vietnam was one of the main victims of chemical weapons in the Post- WWII Era. How has the nation coped with the effects of chemical weapons?  What efforts has Vietnam led internationally and...

Vietnam was one of the main victims of chemical weapons in the Post- WWII Era. How has the nation coped with the effects of chemical weapons?  What efforts has Vietnam led internationally and within the region for the total ban of chemical weapons?  What suggestions could Vietnam give regarding chemical weapons to countries through a political transition?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think some might suggest that the use of Agent Orange and other similar pesticides during the Vietnam War was not technically the use of chemical weapons.  Since the use of such chemicals was meant to remove dense foliage and crop production, some would suggest that this does not fit the pure definition of "chemical weapons."  Naturally, those whose lives were destroyed by its dispersement would disagree, and it is in this respect where Vietnam's position towards chemical weapons is an interesting one.  

Vietnam was ravaged by the use of pesticides and chemicals such as Agent Orange.  One way the nation has coped with the use of chemical weapons has been by establishing "peace villages" throughout Vietnam.  These villages allow victims of chemical warfare to receive psychological and medical assistance.  Specific funding in Vietnamese medical budgets allow for assistance to those impacted by the use of Agent Orange and the spread of its dioxins.  

At the same time, Vietnam has pushed the issue of Agent Orange/ dioxins to be opened through dialogue with the United States.  As Vietnam has modernized to become an economic force in the global markets, it has predicated this commercial opening with discourse regarding those who were impacted by Agent Orange and similar chemical agents. Joint study between both nations, shared plans of action calling for the elimination of the dioxin in the Vietnamese setting, and cleaning up known "hot spots" of dioxin activity are all paths that Vietnam has taken to cope with the reality of having chemical agents embedded in its people and its land.

Vietnam has taken a very strong stance in calling for the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.  Vietnam has demanded that chemical weapons not be used.  Vietnam takes a hard stance regarding the dissemination and development of chemical weapons:  

Vietnam cites its historical conflict with the United States as its reason for supporting the universal elimination of chemical weapons. During Operation Ranch Hand, from 1962 to 1971, the U.S. military used more than 18 million gallons of herbicide in Vietnam. Such herbicides are not scheduled chemicals controlled by the Chemical Weapons Convention, and are therefore not considered chemical weapons under international law, but their reported health effects on the Vietnamese population and U.S. soldiers have made their use controversial.

Vietnam's stance is symbolically political.  A nation that has been ravaged by chemical weapon use recognizes such danger.  In the region, as nations vie for political leverage, Vietnam serves as an example of recognizing a line that will not be crossed.  For Vietnam, the use and development of chemical weapons is one such line where a definitive stance has been taken.  Vietnam could be seen as a leader in the way it condemns the use of chemical weapons as well as how it complies with international testing procedures:  "The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has conducted industrial inspections in Vietnam since 2003, and co-hosted capacity-building workshops and seminars in Southeast Asia with Vietnam."  Nations that are in the midst of political transition might be able to look to Vietnam as an example of recognizing the pain of the past and standing for preventing such brutality in the future. While it could very well seek to exact revenge, Vietnam does not, and its stance against chemical weapons represents such a position.