CANBERRA, Australia -- Vietnam's prime minister said today that he plans to visit the United States next month, a trip that would make him the first Vietnamese leader to travel to the United States since the end of the war between the two countries 30 years ago.
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai said arrangements were being made for him to visit Washington. It was not immediately clear whom Khai would meet with.
''Thirty years has passed since the end of the war; this is the first ever visit by a leader of a unified Vietnam to the United States," Khai told reporters on the first day of a visit to Australia.
In November 2003, Vietnam's Defense Minister Pham Van Tra met with Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld in Washington, becoming the first senior military official of Hanoi's government to visit the United States.
Khai rejected suggestions that the visit was to strengthen defense and strategic ties as part of a wider policy of containing the power and influence of China.
''The purpose of my visit to the United States is to elevate our relationship to a higher plane in a new situation, and we don't take into consideration as such the factor of China," he said.
Vietnam has a prime minister, a president, and a politically powerful leader of the Communist Party.
Communist Vietnam recently marked the 30th anniversary of the war's end with a colorful parade of floats -- some emblazoned with American business logos -- down the same boulevard where North Vietnamese tanks rolled to victory against a US-backed government.
In the twilight of his presidency, Bill Clinton visited Vietnam in November of 2000, the first trip by a US president since Richard M. Nixon came at the height of the war in 1969.
Clinton's three-day visit drew wide support from businesses and the people, as thousands followed him through stops in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, and other sites. Vietnam leaders welcomed the trip but distanced themselves from his call for the country to liberalize its economy and its political system.