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Fresh hope for the families of four troops missing in action in Vietnam. The country today announced that it will allow the US to search three restricted areas for the men’s remains. The previously restricted areas include two likely plane crash locations and the site of a firefight in 1968, Reuters reports. The news was delivered straight from the defense minister’s mouth to Leon Panetta’s ear: He’s in the country today, where he also gave a token of goodwill to his Vietnamese counterpart—a diary that belonged to a slain Vietnamese serviceman.

A US Marine had found the diary and brought it to the US after the war; he had recently been seeking to return it. For their part, Vietnamese officials gave Panetta letters from a slain US soldier. Portions of the letters were read during wartime propaganda broadcasts, according to the Pentagon. The exchange “is a reflection of the priority the United States places on people-to-people ties with Vietnam,” said a Pentagon rep. The AP notes that some 1,300 troops are still unaccounted for in Vietnam; it’s believed that the remains of as many as 600 of them could still be recoverable.