This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002869
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV AND PM
DOD FOR ISA/STERN
PACOM FOR FPA
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PREL MARR TH CH CB VM SUBJECT: TOUR D'HORIZON WITH DEFMIN GENERAL TRA
REF: HANOI 2846
1. (SBU) Summary. Defense Minister Tra's meetings in Washington next week are unlikely to produce any surprises, but should put the full stamp of approval on better mil/mil ties and lead to a more active program of exchanges. Tra is keen to expand medical cooperation and also seeks more technical assistance and equipment for demining needs. He seemed ill-prepared to discuss IMET or an Article 98 agreement. Tra described in brief joint naval patrols with Thailand (ongoing), the PRC (new), and Cambodia (in abeyance). The GVN has still not made a "diplomatic decision" that would lead to Vietnamese participation in international peacekeeping, but demining could be an area where Vietnam could offer contributions eventually. Tra was a pleasant interlocutor, but appears more focused on the optics of the visit -- sending a signal at home of better relations -- than a substantive discussion of strategic issues. End summary.
2. (U) Ambassador hosted Politburo member and Defense Minister Senior General Pham Van Tra, accompanied by ten members of his traveling delegation, at an unprecedented dinner on November 6 at the Residence in preparation for Tra's November 9-12 visit to the U.S. (The delegation will then travel to Brazil and Belgium). DATT and Pol/C also attended. The Ambassador welcomed the first-ever visit to the U.S. by a SRV Defense Minister and expressed hope for continued expansion of military-to-military ties as well as overall expansion of U.S.-Vietnam relations.
Goals of the visit
3. (SBU) General Tra cited eight main goals for the trip: -- to return the March 2000 visit to Vietnam by then- Secretary of Defense Cohen;
SIPDIS -- to promote exchanges between the two militaries in order to achieve better mutual understanding; -- to seek ways to cooperate even more effectively on the search for Missing in Action, and to thank the U.S. for the information it has provided that has helped Vietnam to conduct its own searches; -- to request an increase in demining-related assistance, particularly equipment needs (Tra later described demining cooperation as only "rather good" compared to the "good" cooperation on MIAs and medicine); -- to increase the number of exchanges at all levels of the military; -- to expand medical research cooperation (note: Tra reiterated twice subsequently that he planned to make a proposal on this to Secretary Rumsfeld. end note); -- to discuss USG assistance on dealing with the consequences of chemicals used at former U.S. bases, particularly in Danang, Bien Hoa, and Cu Mong Pass and Phu Cat (both in Binh Dinh province); and, -- to invite Secretary Rumsfeld to visit further to promote "mutual understanding and trust." Tra commented that his trip would lead to more exchanges down the line, and also specifically expressed a willingness to receive PACOM Admiral Fargo in February.
4. (SBU) Ambassador noted that we share these broad objectives, expressed appreciation for Vietnamese cooperation on POW/MIAs, and urged the MOD use its influence within the GVN and Prime Minister's Office to conclude negotiations on the Level One demining survey to make it a "deliverable" that could be signed during the December visit to the U.S. of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan. He commented that Secretary Rumsfeld and other USG interlocutors would also likely wish to discuss various strategic issues, including: -- the role of ASEAN, especially enhancing counter-terrorism cooperation (General Tra noted that, while the Ministry of Public Security had the lead on this, MOD was actively engaged); -- the rise of China and its influence in the region; -- the threat from North Korea and any helpful role the GVN might play in defusing the situation; -- conclusion of an Article 98 agreement; -- conclusion of an IMET agreement, like those the U.S. has with most other countries in Asia; and, -- expansion of other cooperation, including training, ship visits, etc.
5. (SBU) General Tra cited problems in signing an IMET agreement, but expressed interest in English language training for MOD officials. He noted the value of an ongoing English language program for MOD offered by the Australians. He also expressed an interest in more MOD/DOD cooperation on science and technology. (Note: The Director of MOD's Military Center of Science and Technology, Lt. Gen. Nguyen Hoa Thinh, was also at the dinner and will be a member of Tra's delegation. DATT will seek to coordinate meetings for him with DOD counterparts.)
Regional defense relationships
6. (SBU) General Tra explained the presence of the Commanders of Military Regions 3 and 7 (Haiphong and Ho Chi Minh City) on his delegation as related to their responsibilities in receiving foreign naval ships frequently, including the upcoming visit of a U.S. frigate. He said that he usually undertakes two foreign trips per year, usually with an all-Army delegation (like this one). He pointed to the ongoing visit to Vietnam by the Thai Defense Minister, and said that the two countries already conducted joint naval patrols (two vessels per country) and had seen a decrease in piracy as a result. He said that Vietnam and China had also just reached agreement to conduct such joint patrols. Noting that Vietnam and China still had not reached agreement on fishing zones (which Tra confirmed), the Ambassador asked what the mandate would be for the joint patrols. Tra's answer was rather vague. A similar joint patrol program with Cambodia had not worked well due to Cambodia's lack of resources, Tra said. Once the new government in Phnom Penh was formed, he promised that Vietnam would make another attempt at resuming such patrols.
7. (SBU) Ambassador noted General Tra's February 2002 discussions with then-CINCPAC Admiral Blair about a possible role for Vietnam in international peacekeeping operations, especially as Vietnam continues its campaign for a 2008/9 UN Security Council seat. General Tra emphasized that such a role would require a "diplomatic decision" first within the GVN and was not up to MOD per se. He pointed to Vietnam's considerable experience in demining after fifty years of war as one future possible area where the Vietnam military (both Army and Navy) could make a contribution.
8. (SBU) General Tra proved to be a pleasant -- if uninspiring -- interlocutor, notably less combative than in his talks last year with Admiral Blair and separately with the Ambassador. He will likely strive to maintain this aura of goodwill in Washington, and will not be prepared to delve too much into broader strategic issues or concerns. He and MOD appear much more focused on the optics of the visit than on any substantive outcomes or deliverables. The visit appears designed mostly to send a signal within the Vietnamese military and to the Vietnamese public that the CPV and GVN have decided to move to a higher level of mil/mil cooperation with the U.S., rather than to achieve any specific goals vis--vis the USG at this point. It is nonetheless an opportunity for us to convey our interests and concerns and to take the Vietnamese up on their willingness to engage further. BURGHARDT