Daniel Kritenbrink on Tuesday became the first U.S. ambassador to visit a cemetery of Vietnamese soldiers killed in the American war in Vietnam.
Ambassador Kritenbrink visited the Truong Son National Martyrs’ Cemetery in the north-central province of Quang Tri, where more than 10,000 fallen Vietnamese soldiers are laid to rest.
The American diplomat was joined by Quang Tri deputy chairman Hoang Nam for a bell-tolling ritual before they kicked off the cemetery visit, which lasted for roughly 30 minutes on Tuesday afternoon.
Ambassador Kritenbrink and a delegation of U.S. diplomats dedicated a minute of silence as a gesture of respect for the fallen soldiers, before offering incense to their graves.
|U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink and Quang Tri Province deputy chairman Hoang Nam perform a bell-tolling ritual during the former’s visit to the Truong Son National Martyrs’ Cemetery in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam on August 27, 2019. Photo: Quoc Nam / Tuoi Tre|
The ambassador then visited the historical Hien Luong Bridge, which crosses the Ben Hai River in Quang Tri.
The bridge is located on the 17th Parallel, a provisional military demarcation line between the two parts of Vietnam established by the Geneva Accords in 1954.
The demarcation line has been made irrelevant following the country’s reunification in 1975.
Ambassador Kritenbrink lingered for longer than usual over the demarcation line, which is still seen today on the Hien Luong Bridge, as he chatted with leaders of the former war zone.
|U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink and Quang Tri Province deputy chairman Hoang Nam shake hands over the 17th Parallel demarcation line on the Hien Luong Bridge in Quang Tri Province, north-central Vietnam, August 27, 2019. Photo: Quoc Nam / Tuoi Tre|
The American ambassador told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper he hopes to send the message, through his visit, that Vietnam and the United States have healed the wounds of war through joint cooperation in overcoming its aftermath.
This result has not only improved the lives of the people of Quang Tri but also bridged the distance between the two peoples and governments, he said.
The visit was also meant to pay his respects to the people who gave their lives for the love for their country, Ambassador Kritenbrink said.
“This highly meaningful gesture offers closure of the past as our two countries look forward to a future of cooperation,” said Quang Tri deputy chairman Hoang Nam.
The ambassador’s historic visit embodies respect for the truth, Nam said.
|U.S. diplomats and Vietnamese officials stand in silence as they offer flowers to fallen Vietnamese soldiers at the Truong Son National Martyrs’ Cemetery in Quang Tri Province, north-central Vietnam, August 27, 2019. Photo: Quoc Nam / Tuoi Tre|
Ambassador Kritenbrink said he fully supports Quang Tri’s idea of hosting a festival of peace to rebrand itself as a symbol of peace instead of a reminder of war.
The ambassador promised to join the festival if it gets hosted.
Kritenbrink, who took office in November 2017, is the eighth U.S. ambassador to Vietnam since the countries restored diplomatic ties in 1995.
Quang Tri was the site of multiple key battles and was one of the most intensively bombed areas of Vietnam during the war.