Despite their insistence that the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops was the condition for the release of prisoners of war, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam took little action to account for American POWs at the end of the Vietnam War. Almost two decades would pass following the end of the war before significant internal political changes, shifting regional alignments, changing Western interests, Sino-Soviet rapprochement, a nonmilitary settlement of the Cambodian conflict, and the collapse of the Soviet Union would bring Hanoi to the point of recognizing the importance of mending its relationship with the West. From the Paris peace talks to the U.S. government's decision in 1994 to lift the trade embargo against Vietnam, Hanoi's policy on American MIAs and POWs is examined, with particular focus on the influence of individual decision-makers on the process and the ways the Vietnamese leadership arrived at their negotiating strategies.
Lewis M. Stern served ten years in the Central Intelligence Agency, including a tour in Bangkok, Thailand, attached to the Indochina Operations Group. From 1988 to 2001, he was Director for Indochina, Thailand and Burma in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. From 2001 to 2008, as the Director for Southeast Asia in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, he headed a team of civilian defense professionals and military officers responsible for defense relations with Southeast Asia. He was a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, from September 2008 until his retirement in October 2010. Dr. Stern is currently an adjunct professor, Asian Studies Program, Mary Baldwin College, in Staunton, Virginia.