World Food Prize Ambassador Quinn
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Finding the Roadmap to Restoring U.S. Relations in Indochina


Returning to the United States in the summer of 1990, Amb. Quinn takes up his position as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State responsible for coordinating U.S. Foreign Policy in all of southeast Asia, but particularly with the three countries of Indochina—Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. Amb. Quinn describes what a daunting challenge this will be given: the complex recent history of China and Vietnam, which included open warfare; the Chinese fear of a Soviet invasion; the presence of 200,000 Vietnamese troops all across Cambodia, while 25,000 radical Khmer Rouge forces still resisted them; the diverse interests of other southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia; the different personalities and forces within Cambodia itself which were engaged in a decade-long civil war; and the vast array of American interest groups and public opinion in the still bitter aftermath of the Vietnam War. Within this stunningly complex array of actors and interests, it would be Amb. Quinn’s job to devise a policy that would allow the United States to achieve the fullest possible accounting of the more than 2,500 still missing American service men from the Vietnam War, as well as somehow attain some type of settlement in Cambodia that could assist the long-suffering Khmer people. As he took office, America had no diplomatic relations with either Vietnam or Cambodia and no official Americans able to be present in either country. It was a daunting and seemingly almost impossible task which would consume him over the next four years and across two different political administrations--that of President H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. 

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