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03HANOI240 2003-01-29 09:42:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Hanoi
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1. (U) Another small, but historic step in the bilateral
relationship took place in Hanoi on January 27, when the
Ministry of Defense (MOD) signed an MOU for a survey of
landmines and UXO with the Vietnam Veterans of America
Foundation. The Director of Defense Ministry's Demining
Command (BOMICO), Senior Colonel Bui Minh Tam, signed for
MOD, and David Holdridge, VVAF Country Representative and a
veteran, signed for the United States. DCM and DATT

2. (U) The Department's Humanitarian Demining Program (HDP)
set aside $6 million for the Vietnam Level-One survey,
formally known as the Vietnam Landmine/UXO Impact Assessment
and Survey Project. It includes data collection, field
surveys to verify the data, and data analysis. Phase one of
the survey will last 12 months and cover the provinces of
Quang Tri, Quang Binh, and Ha Tinh, all in central Vietnam.
Phase two will include other contaminated provinces and
occur after both parties review the results of phase one.
Results will be consolidated into narrative reports and
digital maps. VVAF will implement the project on behalf of
the Department.

3. (U) The GVN-controlled local press gave the signing
ceremony good coverage, another sign of the significance of
the event for the GVN. This followed in the wake of two
'prep' articles that were published last week in the Army
Newspaper and Vietnam News. At the annual meeting between
the Committee for Foreign NGO Affairs and Foreign NGOs,
Deputy Foreign Minister Le Van Bang interrupted his 25-
minute prepared speech to speak extemporaneously in support
of the groundbreaking signing. At the same event, the
President of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations,
Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, also specifically focused on the signing,
stating that he very much appreciated the understanding,
determination and patience of VVAF and that this was a very
important event.

4. (U) Comment: Negotiations on the MOU began in May 2001
and took a long 20 months, stalled in part on GVN/PAVN
sensitivities over where the survey would be conducted and
the need for it to avoid sensitive border areas. Agreement
to sign the MOU clearly came from the top of the GVN and
Communist Party. Negotiations over phase two of the project
could also be difficult. Nonetheless, the fact that the MOD
and an American veterans organization could reach agreement
to sign the MOU is another positive sign for US-Vietnam
relations and, hopefully, help reduce the lingering
suspicion caused by the war. The event also marks the
first time that the Defense Ministry has signed an agreement