US sailors visit Vietnamese shelter for victims of Agent Orange

DANANG, Vietnam, March 7 (Reuters) - Sailors from a U.S. aircraft carrier on Wednesday visited a Vietnamese shelter for people suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, a chemical used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War to destroy foliage.

Of the 4.8 million people who were exposed to Agent Orange, some three million are still suffering from its effects, including children born with severe disabilities or other health issues years after their parents were exposed, according to the Hanoi-based Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange.

"I think it's very powerful to see the circumstances in which we're here today compared to, say, 40 years ago," said Gordon Watkins, a sailor from the visiting USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier who was at the shelter in Danang.

22 PHOTOS
Sailors visit shelter for victims of Agent Orange
See Gallery
Sailors visit shelter for victims of Agent Orange
Vo Nhat Truyen, 30, who suffers the affects of Agent Orange, interacts with a US Navy sailor at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. Navy officer Ada Anderson plays with a victim of Agent Orange at a hospice, as part of the U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visit in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese person suffering the affects of Agent Orange salutes a US Navy sailor during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Lieu, 23, who suffers the affects of Agent Orange, works on a project at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Vietnamese person suffering the affects of Agent Orange looks on at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant during a visit by US Navy personnel from the USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Vietnamese person suffering the affects of Agent Orange wraps incense sticks at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Vo Nhat Truyen, 30, who suffers from the affects of Agent Orange, poses during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Vietnamese person suffering the affects of Agent Orange interacts with a US Marine during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, 38, who suffers the affects of Agent Orange, sits beside a US Navy sailor during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Vietnamese people suffering the affects of Agent Orange pose with crewmembers of the USS Carl Vinson at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
A Vietnamese person suffering the affects of Agent Orange interacts with a US Navy sailor during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Bao Anh, 22, who suffers the affects of Agent Orange, gestures to details on a mural as she interacts with crewmembers of the USS Carl Vinson at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Nguyen Ngoc Phuong, 38, who suffers the affects of Agent Orange, arrives on his motorycle at a centre for victims of the wartime defoliant during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
Vo Nhat Truyen, 30, who suffer from the affects of Agent Orange leans on the shoulder of a US Navy sailor during a visit by the crew of USS Carl Vinson in Danang on March 7, 2018. The US Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived for a four-day port call to the central city of Danang for a highly symbolic trip that includes a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange. The US dropped more than 21 million gallons of the chemical, a defoliant containing dioxin used to strip jungle cover and destroy food crops as a means to expose the enemy, during the Vietnam war. Officials in Hanoi say that up to three million Vietnamese were exposed to the toxic mix of chemicals which causes cancer, birth defects and neurological disease. / AFP PHOTO / Linh PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. sailors perform with victims of Agent Orange at a hospice, as part of the U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visit in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. sailors perform with victims of Agent Orange at a hospice, as part of the U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visit in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Vietnamese Agent Orange victim Nguyen Ngoc Phuong (C), 36, guides U.S. sailors as they pack incense sticks at a hospice, as part of the U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visit in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A U.S. sailor plays with victims of Agent Orange at a hospice, as part of the U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson visit in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A U.S. sailor plays with an Agent Orange victim at a hospice as part of the visit to Vietnam of U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Navy officer Mary Lewis sits with Agent Orange victims at a hospice as part of the visit to Vietnam of U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A U.S. Navy officer plays with Agent Orange victims at a hospice as part of the visit to Vietnam of U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A U.S sailor wears a traditional Vietnamese conical hat during a visit to a hospice for Agent Orange victim as part of the visit to Vietnam of U.S aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in Danang, Vietnam March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"I'm here in a T-shirt and shorts, and I'm playing with children," said Watkins, who was holding a young Vietnamese boy in his arms.

"I think that's a really good step," said Watkins, who along with other sailors made incense sticks and plastic flowers with the children at the shelter.

The Vinson arrived in Vietnam on Monday in the first visit of a U.S. aircraft carrier since the war ended in 1975, dramatically underscoring the growing strategic ties between the two former foes at a time when China's regional influence is rising.

On Tuesday, a U.S. Navy band visiting Vietnam with the carrier performed a rendition of "Noi Vong Tay Lon," a Vietnamese song about national unity which was popular during the war.

The United States will soon finish a five-year, $110 million program designed to clean soil contaminated by Agent Orange at Danang International Airport.

And in January, the two countries said they would begin the process of decontaminating an area of Bien Hoa Air Base in Southern Vietnam where much of the Agent Orange used during the war was stored by the U.S. military.

That clean-up operation will cost $500 million and last ten years, according to USAID.

"We hope this visit is a chance for the American government and companies who produced Agent Orange to understand more about the adverse impacts of the substance on its victims and take responsibility for the harm it has done," said Quach Thanh Vinh, of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange.

"There is still room for the U.S. government and American people to understand the impact of Agent Orange on Vietnamese people."

(Additional reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Read Full Story