"Today," said President Clinton, "I amannouncing the normalization of diplomatic relationships with Vietnam." With that matter-of-fact sentence, spoken at a solemn ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Clintonexchanged 20 years of cold peace for active ties to an economically resurgent Vietnam. He did so amid boycotts by veterans groups and Republican leaders -- including most contenders for the presidential nomination -- who protested that Hanoi had done far toolittle to help account for U.S. servicemen missing in the Vietnamese conflict. "All signs point to Vietnam willfully withholding information which could resolve the fate of many Americans lost in the war," saidSenate Majority Leader Bob Dole. But the President, citing increased Vietnamese cooperation on the issue as relations thawed over the last year, countered that normalization was the "next appropriate step. With this new relationship, we will be able to make more progress." Despite political concerns,TIME's Dean Fischersays, State Department officials say Clinton quickly sized up the move's manifest economic opportunities. Vietnam is expected to spend $7 billion over the next seven years on roads, ports and a modern telecommunications system, and U.S. companies are clamoring for the business.