HANOI and Washington warrant credit for agreeing to continue talks on tracing the more than 1,700 Americans still listed as missing in action in the Vietnam war. Merely getting together, as just occurred in Hanoi, where a US delegation headed by presidential envoy John Vessey Jr. met with a Vietnamese delegation, has not been easy. Hanoi broke off talks last fall. And Hanoi has said that it wanted a quid pro quo - a broader discussion of ``humanitarian concerns'' by the two sides - in return for a resumption of talks on the MIA, prisoner-of-war issue.
Now, the two sides have gone far in meeting each other's concerns. Washington will discuss humanitarian aid (apparently involving such issues as artificial limbs for Vietnamese war casualties) in further talks. And Hanoi will discuss the missing Americans.
Obviously, the two sides still have a long way to go before there is any full-scale restoration of relations. Washington insists that discussions of humanitarian issues raised by Hanoi will not include possible financial assistance or diplomatic relations.
Surely, the Vietnam war will never really be resolved for Americans until there is a full accounting on the MIAs. And, in fairness, one cannot help recognizing that there are legitimate humanitarian issues involving the Vietnamese. Thus, it is encouraging that the two sides are again talking - and reaching some mutual compromises.