The US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates talked with teachers, students and staff from the Hanoi National University on October 11 during his official visit to Vietnam to attend the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+).

Gates said he was happy to visit Vietnam during the grand celebrations of the capital city’s millennium anniversary, saying it was an opportunity for both countries to consider how to deepen bilateral ties and make a concrete effort to contribute to regional peace and stability.

The US defence official praised the active cooperation of Vietnam ’s Government, Ministry of Defence and provinces in the search for the remains of US servicemen reported Missing-in-Action (MIA), for repatriation.

He said that bilateral cooperation to assist Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin and clear unexploded ordnance left over from the war have achieved some encouraging results.

Gates expressed his wish to step up talks and expand cooperation in defence affairs with Vietnam such as officers training, medical military cooperation, search and rescue missions after natural disasters and maritime security.

The development of Vietnam-US cooperative relations is not only of mutual interest but will also benefit Southeast Asia and Asia at large, he confirmed.

Gates used the occasion to highlight Vietnam ’s initiative to organise the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting, with eight of its partners taking part.

The ADMM+ is a chance for every party to understand issues of mutual concern and to increase cooperation to overcome security and defence challenges, he said.

This is Robert Gates’ first visit to Vietnam in his capacity as US Defence Secretary and the third time by a US Secretary of Defence since the normalisation of relations between the two countries in 1995./.