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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Remarks at Commissioning of New Consulate Building in Ho Chi Minh City
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, September 7, 1999
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
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As Prepared For Delivery

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I want to welcome our extraordinary Ambassador to Vietnam, Pete Peterson; Consul General Ray; our distinguished Vietnamese friends and members of the diplomatic community; consulate staff, family and friends.

In the spring of 1997, I had the high diplomatic honor of throwing out the ceremonial first pitch of the season for the Baltimore Orioles. So at the ground-breaking here two years ago -- with that very different Opening Day fresh on my mind -- I said that was the first time I had ever been asked to throw out the first brick.

That's why it's especially gratifying to come back today and see what became of that brick -- and what a magnificent new Consulate has been built upon this site. It even takes the sting off the fact that Senator Hagel beat me to the punch here three weeks ago.

I want to express special thanks to Chairman Thanh and the other authorities here in Ho Chi Minh City. Their cooperation allowed us to complete construction here not only on time, but ahead of time. And I want to congratulate our foreign buildings staff for its major role in that achievement.

This Consulate General marks another important step forward in the relationship between the United States and Vietnam. For in this place -- surrounded by reminders of the past -- our two countries will be moving resolutely toward a better future.

Soon we will be able to provide full visa services here for the first time in almost a quarter century. And within a year, we expect this consulate to be one of our busiest visa-issuing posts in the world.

This new facility will allow us to accelerate refugee processing and foster family reunification -- two important humanitarian goals.

It will enhance our people-to-people ties with Vietnam, as tourism and travel become easier in both directions.

It will deepen our commercial ties, as bilateral trade grows and Vietnam moves ahead with reforms that encourage entrepreneurs and attract investors.

It will help us better serve the American business community which is concentrated here in the South.

It will enhance our capacity to follow up concerns on human rights, labor rights and religious freedoms.

And it will help us pursue what remains our paramount goal in Vietnam, which is to obtain the fullest possible accounting of Americans still missing or otherwise unaccounted for in Southeast Asia. Vietnam's cooperation with this effort in recent years has paved the way to the normal consular ties our two countries celebrate today.

The United States and Vietnam will forever be linked by history. But by continuing to work together to transcend that tragic legacy, we can add to our shared history bright new chapters of hope and mutual prosperity.

It is in this spirit that I commission this Consulate as a symbol of America's commitment to continued progress towards full reconciliation and normalization between the people of America and the people of Vietnam.

And it is in this same spirit that I will now present a very special Fiancée Visa to be issued by this new Consulate. Congratulations, Miss Lien -- on both your engagement and your visa. You have our best wishes.

And thank you all very much.

[End of Document]

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