U.S., Vietnam Mark 10 Years Together

Vietnam (search) is celebrating 10 years of relations with the United States in a series of events around Washington this weekend.

Festivities start Friday with a reception at the Vietnamese embassy featuring a performance by 12 traditional dancers and musicians from the Vietnam National Theater of the Performing Arts.

The performance will be repeated three times Saturday in the auditorium of the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art. Visitors will also see demonstrations of Vietnamese cooking and crafts, including furniture-making.

At the Smithsonian's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, artisans will demonstrate woodblock printing and teach children how to make bamboo flutes and dolls from colored rice dough.

An exhibit at the Freer features 22 dishes, jars, boxes and bowls that were made 500 to 800 years ago on the banks of the Red River, which flows past Hanoi into the Gulf of Tonkin. Items include a stone pillow in the shape of a tortoise.

Ceramics from northern Vietnam resemble those of China but have a distinct feature: a layer of brown tint on the base. Experts don't know its meaning or function.

Archaeologists have been digging throughout the area since the 1980s. The most important dig is in the middle of Hanoi on the site of the old Ba Dinh citadel. A translucent white bowl at the Freer, long thought to be Chinese, was identified by the Smithsonian as Vietnamese when a recent excavation found similar bowls in the remains of a Vietnamese palace dating from the 1400s.

Monday is the 10th anniversary of President Clinton's announcement of the resumption of full U.S. relations with Vietnam. Thirty years ago, the Vietnam War ended with the U.S. evacuation of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City.

One of the invitations to Friday's reception at the Vietnamese embassy went to Ruth McCain, mother of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. A naval air pilot in the Vietnam war, Sen. McCain was shot down by the North Vietnamese and spent 5 1/2 years in captivity at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton (search)." In recent years he has played an important role in promoting trade between the United States and Vietnam.

Last month, Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai (search) met with President Bush at the White House. He was the first head of Vietnam's communist government to visit the United States.

Khai lobbied Bush to support Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization. The United States is now Vietnam's biggest trading partner.