Most of the media coverage of President Obama’s trip to Asia has focused on whether the president should apologize to Japan for the United States dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima at the end of World War II.
According to Obama administration officials, there are no plans to apologize for this bombing, which took the lives of more than 100,000 Japanese civilians.
But might the same question be asked about Agent Orange in Vietnam?
The U.S. military sprayed the toxic herbicide, along with other deadly defoliants, over more than 20 percent of South Vietnam between the early 1960s and early 1970s in an attempt to flush out their enemies.
Agent Orange doesn’t get as much press as it used to, but its profound lingering effects remains a significant international public health issue in 2016.
Hundreds of thousands of American veterans of the Vietnam War have died, or are still suffering because of exposure to dioxin, the deadly toxin in Agent Orange.
Exposure to it can cause multiple cancers as well as other diseases and health problems.
The Vietnam Red Cross estimates that Agent Orange has affected 3 million Vietnamese people, including at least 150,000 children. Babies in Vietnam are still being born with birth defects due to Agent Orange.
The United States and Vietnam set up a decontamination effort several years ago in Da Nang, a city in Central Vietnam that was once the site of a U.S. airbase that stored Agent Orange. It was the most toxic of 28 reported dioxin “hot spots” in Vietnam.
But because of chilly relations between the United States and Vietnam over the past four decades, efforts to clean up Agent Orange have been slow and minimal.
Could that change when Obama visits Vietnam for the first time on Sunday?