The US government's landmark decision to clean up the herbicide Agent Orange – some 50 years after it was first used to defoliate Vietnam's jungle during the Vietnam War – is yet another indicator that Washington is committed to fostering positive relations with its one-time foe, analysts say.
The clean-up is well-timed: The US is looking to increase its presence in the Asia Pacific region economically, diplomatically, and militarily. At the same time, relations in the Pacific are particularly strained, not least between China and Vietnam. Anti-Beijingprotests have racked Hanoi's streets for the past five weeks as the two nations go head-to-head over claims in the South China Sea, an area of vast oil, gas, and mineral wealth to which Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan all also lay partial claim. The subject caused considerable controversy at last month's Association of Southeast Asian Nationsmeeting, where foreign ministers disagreed over how to resolve the longstanding issue.