As the Department of Defense looks to expand its role in the South Pacific, the United States and Vietnam have come to a tentative agreement that could allow for the search of the remains of several soldiers who have been missing for decades, Reuters reports.

The agreement came during a meeting between Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Vietnamese Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh, who told Panetta that Vietnam would open three areas that were previously closed. The announcement lends newfound hope in the search for the crew of an F-4C Phantom that crashed in 1967.

"We located the site in 2008 but soon thereafter the Vietnamese informed us that site was restricted for some reason," Ron Ward of Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC),told the news agency. "So we're pleased to find out that today…the restriction on that site has been lifted."

Experts also believe that the previously-restricted areas may be home to an intense firefight in 1968 as well as a crash site of a Marine Corps F-4J.

Even if searchers discover the missing soldiers, it will only put a small dent in the number of troops from Vietnam still listed as MIA. Experts say more than 1,700 soldiers remain unaccounted for.