Office of the Press Secretary
AT DEMINING EVENT
International Trade Center
THE PRESIDENT: Ambassador Peterson, Ambassador Le Bang, Mr. Khoan; my good friend, Representative Snyder and the other members of Congress and our American delegation. I want to say most of all how much I appreciate the work that all of you who are engaged in demining are doing.
I thank the Vietnamese people who are doing this, the members of the NGOs. And I'd also like to especially thank the American veterans who have been involved in this endeavor.
The problem of land mines is a global tragedy, and 90 percent of the victims of war are civilians, mostly because of land mines. In all probability, land mines kill more children than soldiers, and they keep killing long after wars are over. This is the tragedy of war for which peace provides no answer.
Vietnam has about 3.5 million mines in its soil and about 300,000 tons of unexploded ordnance. Each year, some 2,000 Vietnamese are killed or injured as they go about their daily lives. This year, at Vietnam's request, we began providing assistance to the humanitarian demining efforts. Since June, we provided over $3 million to purchase equipment and help survey the countryside.
I am happy to announce that we will also be working with Vietnam to develop a computer system and a database to help pinpoint the location of mines and ordnance used here during the war. We have also worked for some years with NGOs such as the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation to fund rehabilitation services for victims of land mines, an effort that owes so much to the leadership of Senator Pat Leahy. Today, our Defense Department is donating more than $700,000 in hospital supplies to Quang Tri Province for the same purpose.
Finally, we support efforts by organizations such as Peace Trees and Catholic Relief Services to educate local communities on how to avoid land mines. The children's paintings we saw over here are part of that effort, and again I'd like to thank those four beautiful young boys for being here and for having the courage to help all the rest of us deal with this problem. (Applause.)
Since I became President, the United States has spent about $350 million around the world to pull the hidden killers out of the earth, the land mines, to deal with the unexploded ordnance. We usually spend slightly more than half of all the money spent in the world on this every year. But I think we should do more.
I am thankful for all the work the organizations are doing here. I am grateful for the request that the government of Vietnam gave, that gave us the opportunity to be involved here. But I hope we will all remember these children who had the courage to come here and share their art work and who want to give the rest of the children of Vietnam and the world a better future.
There are millions of these bombs in the ground in Africa, millions more in the Balkans. They are the curse of innocent children all over the world. I hope that tomorrow all over the world, people will see these children and their drawings and it will enable us to get even more support for the work you were doing in Vietnam and the work that must be done like this in other countries. You will have America's support until you have found every land mine and every piece of unexploded ordnance. (Applause.)
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 7:00 P.M. (L)
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