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05HANOI312 2005-02-07 11:21:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

NSC Senior Director Michael Green's Meetings with

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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 07 HANOI 000312 





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: NSC Senior Director Michael Green's Meetings with
AFM Nguyen Duc Hung: Regional Issues, Religious Freedom and
Visits by Prime Minister Khai and Other Senior GVN Officials

Ref: A. Hanoi 254 and previous

1. (SBU) Summary: NSC Senior Director for Asia Michael
Green and Assistant Foreign Minister Nguyen Duc Hung met for
90 minutes February 4, again at dinner the same night, and
then for 30 minutes on February 5 to discuss regional
issues, a religious freedom work plan and Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai's proposed June visit. AFM Hung described in
familiar terms Vietnam's desire for greater U.S. engagement
with ASEAN, underlined Vietnam's concern about China's role
in the proposed East Asian Summit (EAS) and urged the United
States to find a way to improve relations with Burma. He
also described the GVN's hope for concluding a number of key
matters before the Prime Minister's visit, such as the
bilateral WTO negotiations. Senior Director Green expressed
the U.S. desire to conclude IMET and adoptions agreements
and to use progress in the area of religious freedom to
restart the bilateral human rights dialogue. During the
first meeting, AFM Hung had no official response to Senior
Director Green's presentation of the religious freedom work
plan save to describe Vietnam's intention to make progress
in certain key areas and to express concern that the absence
of a "no sanctions" announcement by March will "mean trouble
for Vietnam." The Senior Director underlined the positive
impact that making progress on a work plan would have on
planning for the Prime Minister's visit, and at the February
5 meeting, Hung gave a different response. He emphasized
the GVN's desire to eliminate the need for the proposed 90-
day waiver by concluding an exchange of notes on Vietnam's
plans for securing religious freedom before the expiration
of the 180-day CPC period. End Summary.




2. (SBU) NSC Senior Director for Asia Michael Green met for
90 minutes with Assistant Foreign Minister (and MFA Americas
Department Director General) Nguyen Duc Hung February 4.
The Ambassador, Pol/C and PolOff accompanied. AFM Hung was
joined by United States Affairs Director Nguyen Hoanh Nam
and Americas Department Desk Officers Nguyen Thi Bao Huong
and Le Chi Dzung. AFM Hung opened by offering his
Government's perspective on issues in Asia in general and
Southeast Asia in particular. Asia has witnessed
significant transformations over the past decade, with
mostly peaceful transfers of power in a number of countries.
However, territorial disputes and ethnic and religious
conflicts still "deeply affect" regional stability.
Nontraditional security threats, such as transnational
crime, epidemics, natural disasters and trafficking in drugs
and persons, are also a feature of the region. The recent
earthquake and tsunami disaster showed the great impact
these nontraditional threats can have on the region, but it
also allowed countries in and outside of Asia to work
together to provide assistance, and Vietnam was no
exception, Hung noted.

3. (SBU) Compared with other areas, the Asia-Pacific region
is relatively stable and benefits from a high level of
economic growth, Hung continued. The region's flashpoints
are "moving in the right direction" and efforts to integrate
Northeast and Southeast Asia are underway. The successful
conclusion of the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting Summit (ASEM 5)
and the collaborative tsunami relief efforts showed how
nations of Asia can join together.

4. (SBU) The most "outstanding" feature of the Asia-Pacific
region is the "peaceful rise of China," AFM Hung noted. In
recent years, China has publicly stated that it is striving
to "rise peacefully." No one is really sure what this
means, but, in general, China seems to be focused on
contributing to the region's dynamic economic growth. On
the other hand, there is no consensus regarding how China
will deploy its newly acquired power and influence, possibly
to "threaten the region's stability and balance." China-
related developments will "for sure" have an impact on the
region and every nation in Southeast Asia, Hung observed.

5. (SBU) Turning to ASEAN, Hung said that the organization
is playing an increasingly important role in Asia and
continues to develop its relations with other countries,
including the United States. At the same time, the
challenge for ASEAN will be to increase its effectiveness
and strengthen cooperation among member states and with
Northeast Asian nations. This year will be important as
ASEAN will begin to draft an ASEAN Charter and will also
work on the East Asian Summit (EAS). The EAS question is
very important, not only from ASEAN's perspective, but also
from the perspective of the "Plus 3" nations of Northeast
Asia. The issues the EAS raises will have a "major effect
on the future of ASEAN," Hung opined.

6. (SBU) During a recent ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting
(SOM) in Hanoi, a "common understanding" about these issues
was reached. However, there still needs to be more
discussion before implementation of the EAS can begin, AFM
Hung said. Some ASEAN members, particularly Malaysia, agree
that it is time to go ahead with the EAS. However, others
want an "open-ended summit," with invitations extended to
others. This is an issue still under discussion, but, if
possible, it would be useful to have others join. "Perhaps
the United States would go along with an open-ended summit,"
Hung asked rhetorically. For its part, ASEAN wants to
remain in the driver's seat and, to this end, developed the
ASEAN+3 formulation. However, China also wants to be in the
driver's seat, Hung said.

7. (SBU) Regarding ASEAN-U.S. relations, ASEAN in general
and Vietnam in particular highly value their ties with the
United States in all areas, Hung continued. The areas in
which the two sides need to increase their cooperation are
economics, trade and investment. For example, the ASEAN
member states are still looking forward to seeing U.S.
guidelines for the implementation of the ASEAN Enterprise
Initiative. Another key area for both sides is increasing
market access, and it is important to encourage U.S.
investors to invest in both ASEAN and Vietnam.
Strengthening the U.S.-ASEAN dialogue is another issue on
which to focus. Although ASEAN has the ROK, Japan, India
and China as dialogue partners, the organization has yet to
build this kind of partnership with the United States, Hung

8. (SBU) That said, in several areas the United States and
ASEAN are strengthening their cooperative ties, AFM Hung
continued. For example, the two sides have increased their
cooperation in countering nontraditional security threats,
such as transnational crime and terrorism. For its part,
Vietnam is working closely with the United States on
countering terrorist financing and "stopping people" who
have links to organizations linked to terrorism. These
cooperative ties have led to Vietnam's becoming the "safest
destination" in Southeast Asia for tourists, investors, and
even U.S. Navy warships (with one USN ship visit scheduled
for 2005, Hung added). ASEAN seeks continued U.S.-ASEAN
counterterrorism cooperation, as spelled out in the ASEAN-
U.S. joint declaration against terrorism, in Brunei, in
addition to cooperation in other areas, such as technology
transfer, information exchange, "finance" and disaster
relief capacity building. U.S. development assistance,
particularly in the areas of hunger reduction and poverty
alleviation, would also be welcome. U.S. participation in
the Mekong Delta region development project, in which Japan
is playing a large role, is also notably absent. While
Vietnam welcomes U.S. regional development assistance that
includes Vietnam, Indonesia and others, perhaps the
assistance could be diverted to bilateral programs and made
"more effective," Hung observed.



9. (SBU) On China-Southeast Asia relations, Hung said that
the PRC plays an important role in every political, economic
and security aspect of the region. Every country in the
region has a "lesson" learned from relations with China, and
some lessons are "more difficult" than others. For its
part, Vietnam is trying to develop and maintain friendly and
cooperative ties with China for the sake of the Vietnamese
and Chinese peoples and for peace and development in the
region. China "attaches great importance" to its
relationship with Southeast Asia, in both political and
economic terms. For example, China took the initiative to
create a "free trade area" with Southeast Asia, and,
although the talks underway are "not easy," all parties have
the determination to go ahead. "Vietnam will do its best to
ensure that ASEAN-China relations contribute to regional
peace and stability," Hung averred.

10. (SBU) Trade volume between Vietnam and China continues
to grow, reaching USD five billion in 2004, and both sides
are striving to reach USD 10 billion in five years, Hung
said. (Note: the Chinese Embassy here claims the 2004
figure is USD 6.74 billion. End Note.) Although Vietnam's
economic relations with the United States are "more
important," the United States and Vietnam are politically
"not so close." While the U.S. President will sometimes
chat briefly with his Vietnamese counterpart or other senior
Vietnamese leaders, leadership interaction between China and
Vietnam is much greater. Vietnam hopes to be able to
increase exchanges between its leaders and those of the
United States. This year, three of Vietnam's top leaders -
the Prime Minister, the President and the Chairman of the
National Assembly - have plans to visit the United States,
and Vietnam hopes that these visits will present the
occasion to have meetings with U.S. leaders, Hung noted.



11. (SBU) One area of concern among Vietnam, the United
States and ASEAN is Myanmar, Hung observed. For a "long
time," Myanmar received no attention from the United States
and was forced to "get along" with its neighbors China and
India. "Myanmar has its own problems, and the United States
should sympathize with them," Hung urged. Myanmar wants to
pursue regional integration and to be welcomed
internationally. With the ASEAN summit scheduled to be held
in Myanmar in 2006, Myanmar is aware of international
concerns. "Myanmar listens to us," he stressed, and Rangoon
is doing its best to meet the demands of its own people and
others, including the United States and Europe. ASEAN-U.S.
relations will be "burdened" if U.S. policy towards Myanmar
continues as it has in the past. Vietnam hopes the United
States can look into ways to improve ties with Myanmar. "We
know you have innovative ways you can do this," such as in
cooperative activities accounting for MIAs, Hung asserted.



12. (SBU) Thanking AFM Hung for his presentation, Senior
Director Green stated that both the United States and
Vietnam have much to gain from strengthening their strategic
dialogue. The United States needs perspective on the
situation in Asia, and Vietnam offers a good view of how
things are developing in the region. It is also useful to
learn how Vietnam's role in the region is evolving. With
Vietnam as APEC's host in 2006, the GVN is in a strong
position to have a large impact on regional trends. As
such, the United States and Vietnam should deepen their
regional dialogue and share their respective strategic
assessments. The tsunami disaster was evidence that the
regional trend is towards increasing cooperation, and
Vietnam's contributions, including granting blanket
overflight clearance to U.S. military planes on assistance
missions, were noticed and appreciated, Senior Director
Green said.

13. (SBU) On China, Senior Director Green agreed with AFM
Hung's assessment. On the whole, it seems that U.S.-PRC
relations are heading in the right direction, and there are
several summits planned for this year. One area to watch
will be Taiwan, but recent steps, such as progress in air
links between Taiwan and the mainland, are good and help to
underpin the two sides' dialogue. However, China may
introduce an anti-splittism law, the result of which may be
some backlash in Taiwan and a reversal of the recent
positive trend. For its part, the United States is
encouraging China to take steps to moderate this law, or not
go through with it at all, the Senior Director noted.

14. (SBU) U.S.-PRC cooperation in resolving the North Korea
nuclear issue continues to move forward, and China is
playing a key role in the six-party talks, along with the
ROK, Japan and Russia. Cooperative action in Northeast
Asia, as manifested in the six-party talks, is the best way
to deal with the DPRK nuclear issue and, in the long run, is
in the interest of the region. On the other hand, the
United States does not see the ARF or the ASEAN+3 mechanisms
as useful for dealing with regional issues such as the DPRK,
Senior Director Green said.

15. (SBU) The United States does not have a strategy of
confronting or containing China, and, based on the absence
of China-related issues in the recent U.S. Presidential
election campaign, it appears that there is a degree of
bipartisan support for the U.S.-China relationship, the
Senior Director continued. There are many challenges in
China, and we need to have in place a "regional approach"
while placing an emphasis on our alliances. ASEAN, and
ASEAN's cohesion, are important for maintaining a stable
regional environment and ensuring that China's emerging role
is a cooperative one, Senior Director Green noted.

16. (SBU) Burma is a problem, and this problem makes it
difficult to have ASEAN-U.S. summits, Dr. Green continued.
As President Bush said in his State of the Union address,
the United States will stand behind and be a strong friend
of countries going down the path to freedom, but Burma is
going in the wrong direction. Both for our values and
strategic interests, it is important to have Burma go in the
right direction. To that end, it would be better to have
all of us speak softly with Burma, rather than some speaking
loudly and others speaking in friendly tones. We are
concerned about Aung San Suu Kyi and the constitutional
process, and it will be difficult for the United States to
be a part of ASEAN events next year if the situation does
not improve, the Senior Director stressed.

17. (SBU) Regarding regional architecture, the United States
believes that APEC as the region's most inclusive grouping
can do the most in areas such as trade liberalization,
expanding bilateral free trade agreements to regional ones
and strengthening cooperation in counterproliferation,
counterterrorism and other transnational threats. The
United States believes that Asia is deficient in
multilateral institutions, particularly compared to other
regions, and needs to take advantage of many levels of
cooperation. We are watching the EAS process and, while we
are not opposed, our impression is that many countries are
backing into it without thinking about the ultimate
consequences. Vietnam, on the other hand, appears to be
thinking strategically, particularly regarding what China's
role will be. In general, the United States believes that
APEC should be the pre-eminent regional organization.
Furthermore, while we do not think we should necessarily be
a part of the EAS, keeping it open-ended and transparent is
critical. We hope that Vietnam will keep us in the loop on
EAS developments. The United States wants to work with
Vietnam behind the scenes both to ensure that we are not
completely excluded and to prevent the EAS from being China-
dominated, Senior Director Green said.



18. (SBU) Turning to bilateral issues, the United States
believes that there is potential for growth in U.S.-Vietnam
relations, Dr. Green noted. With APEC 2006 hosted by
Vietnam in the offing, we will have to work hard to manage
the relationship successfully. There are many issues on the
table, such as trade and military-to-military ties. One
critical issue is religious freedom and Vietnam's
designation as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC). We
have had many discussions about this, and the United States
hopes that we can move in the right direction. The recent
release of Father Ly and several other religious figures
(Ref A) made a good impression in Washington. To continue
to make progress we need to see systemic changes. We would
like to pursue this issue bilaterally, which could include
having our leaders discuss religious freedom matters as a
matter of course. The United States has no desire to force
change on Vietnamese society or borders.



19. (SBU) The deadline for making a CPC sanctions decision
is approaching, Dr. Green noted and, based on discussions
with International Religious Freedom Ambassador Hanford, we
would be willing to issue a 90-day waiver to provide the
time to pursue a work plan with Vietnam. As part of this
work plan, we would want Vietnam to commit to progress in
key areas and we would need to see it in writing, such as in
an exchange of diplomatic notes, he said. It would be a
future-oriented vision on how to move forward. If
successful, this could allow us to work together on a joint
statement for the President and Prime Minister to issue that
would put the religious freedom issue in the larger context
of the relationship. Progress in various areas of religious
freedom would be mutually reinforcing, and the diplomatic
notes exchanged would frame the issue in a way that is win-
win for both sides, Senior Director Green said.

20. (SBU) As the GVN is aware, the United States is focused
on a few key issues, the Senior Director continued. Opening
churches in the Central Highlands and elsewhere, allowing
the house church movement to expand and issuing implementing
regulations, including language banning forced
renunciations, are critical. The implementing regulations
can demonstrate that Vietnam has a commitment to systemic
changes and show that, if violations occur, there will be
consequences. Progress in these areas would be a
significant step that the President and Prime Minister could
welcome. When Vietnam's leaders make public their
commitment to religious freedom, this plays well in
Washington and is appreciated both in Vietnam and the United
States. Progress on the work plan would lead to a positive
meeting in Washington between the President and Prime
Minister and possibly other senior meetings on the occasion
of other high-level Vietnamese visits this year. Progress
would also ultimately show the strength of the bilateral
relationship to the peoples of both countries and help to
ensure a successful Presidential visit to Vietnam in 2006,
Senior Director Green said.

21. (SBU) The idea of a work plan has backing in both the
White House and the Department, Dr. Green continued, and, if
we see progress, we can arrange successful high-level
visits. The target of a work plan would be the full lifting
of Vietnam's CPC designation, the Ambassador noted.
Although there is a question of when we could get this done,
there should be no reason why we could not lift CPC
designation by 2006, the Ambassador added. On the other
hand, not being able to make progress will force us to
consider how to handle high-level visits, the Senior
Director continued. That said, we are optimistic, and the
White House and the Department believe we can explain to
Congress, the NGO community and the media about the progress
we can make with the work plan, which will make the Prime
Minister's visit a success, Dr. Green stressed.



22. (SBU) AFM Hung said he understands what the United
States is looking to accomplish with the 90-day waiver, but
believes that it would be construed as an extension of
Vietnam's "probation" at a time when the public and
policymakers had been led to believe they were due a reward
for moving to accommodate U.S. requests. The GVN would not
have a problem with an exchange of notes as Dr. Green had
described, AFM Hung said, suggesting that the GVN note be "a
description of Vietnamese actions to date and an explanation
of intended future actions, in the context of the bilateral
relationship and future exchanges of high level leaders and
also `track two' groups of religious or NGO leaders."

23. (SBU) Responding to AFM Hung's question about the timing
of the Prime Minister's visit, the Senior Director said that
June or July is reasonable. However, it has to be said that
the National Security Advisor and Chief of Staff have yet to
approve the visit, so any discussions are now purely
theoretical. Dr. Green expressed his hope that, after
returning to Washington, he can report on his talks in
Vietnam and put together a PM visit proposal. If the two
sides can agree on the religious freedom work plan, he can
report this to the White House and others and put the visit
proposal on a positive trajectory, the Senior Director

24. (SBU) AFM Hung underlined that the religious freedom
issue is very sensitive for Vietnam. During DRL DAS
Elizabeth Dugan's visit to Vietnam last year, she urged
Vietnam to make progress by releasing prisoners, opening
churches and issuing the implementing regulations. The GVN
has made progress in opening churches and will provide a
list to that effect later. Regarding the implementing
regulations, these will come out soon, and perhaps Deputy
Prime Minister Vu Khoan will be able to go into more details
about the timing during his meeting later (reported septel),
Hung said.

25. (SBU) The problem for Vietnam will be if, by March,
there is no "no sanctions" announcement from the United
States, AFM Hung continued. If the United States and the
GVN were able to agree in writing on a way forward before
then, Green replied, sanctions would become a non-issue.
March 7 is the key date, the Ambassador added, so we need to
see something soon. Agreeing on a work plan will allow us
the time to assess progress in church openings and other key
areas. We need to try to create a way forward that meets
both sides' needs in terms of both approach and outcome, the
Ambassador stressed.

26. (SBU) The 90-day waiver would be a vote of confidence,
Dr. Green noted. In response, AFM Hung said that it would
be hard for his Vice Foreign Minister (Le Van Bang) to
travel to the United States as planned in March to advance
the Prime Minister's trip if there were no "positive signal"
from the United States. This work plan is achievable, the
Ambassador said, because we already agree on what needs to
be done. Waiving sanctions for 90 days will send a positive
signal that we are making progress. Hung urged the United
States to lift sanctions completely before the Prime
Minister's visit, but Senior Director Green responded that
this will be difficult because we need time to assess
Vietnam's progress.

27. (SBU) Responding to AFM Hung's protocol-related question
about the "level" of the Prime Minister's visit, Senior
Director Green said that the United States only has "State
visits" and "official working visits," and that the Prime
Minister's visit would be the latter. This would still
allow him to meet the President and members of the Cabinet.
The Prime Minister hopes to travel to the United States for
"three or four days" in the June 20-30 timeframe, Hung said,
and, in addition to Washington, D.C., may stop in New York
City, Seattle and maybe Boston. He would also visit Canada
during this trip. In response to Hung's request, Senior
Director Green handed over themes for a possible draft joint
statement for the President and Prime Minister to issue.



28. (SBU) On Vietnam's WTO accession talks with the United
States, AFM Hung said that Vietnam would like to complete
its negotiations before the PM's visit. Dr. Green responded
that the United States agrees that Vietnam's WTO accession
is important for the bilateral relationship. However,
whether Vietnam's National Assembly can pass the relevant
laws in time will be critical. The best solution may be to
have an umbrella law, the Senior Director suggested. For
its part, the United States is working hard and determined
to make progress. Reaching a bilateral agreement by June
may be difficult, but perhaps the joint statement could
include language to the effect that both sides intend to
continue to make progress, the Senior Director noted.

29. (SBU) Another important issue will be the Congressional
vote on permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), and Vietnam
needs U.S. help in getting through this, Hung said. The
Ambassador responded that progress in the area of religious
freedom and concluding several important U.S. business deals
will be important in this regard. Hung listed three
agreements that Vietnam would like to see wrapped up in time
for the Prime Minister's visit: the Framework Agreement on
Technical Cooperation (the draft of which is in U.S. hands);
the Memorandum of Understanding on Agricultural Cooperation
(which the United States also has to respond to); and the
draft Maritime Agreement (a U.S. team will come in March to
discuss this, the Ambassador said). With bilateral fullest
possible accounting (MIA) cooperation proceeding, Vietnam
would like to see increased U.S. assistance in the central
region of Vietnam in addition to greater avian influenza
aid, AFM Hung said.

30. (SBU) Senior Director Green said that, for its part, the
United States would like to sign an International Military
Education and Training (IMET) agreement with Vietnam, noting
that having a cadre of officers in both countries who
understand each other is important for the overall
relationship. Vietnam's concern about the human rights
vetting process is misplaced, because even U.S. allies such
as Japan and Australia to go through the same procedures.
Progress in the area of religious freedom would complement a
broader human rights dialogue. The two sides should have a
robust human rights dialogue to maintain momentum in the
relationship and send the right message to the peoples of
both countries. Reaching a bilateral adoption agreement
would also be a welcome step forward, the Ambassador said.
In closing, Senior Director Green said that agreeing that
the religious freedom work plan is the best way forward
would assist in pushing the proposal for the PM's visit and
locking in the date.



31. (SBU) Following a social dinner February 4, Dr. Green
and AFM Hung agreed to meet again February 5 to clarify the
issues surrounding the work plan and the timetable. At the
February 5 meeting, Dr. Green reiterated that the United
States is willing to extend a 90-day waiver of Presidential
action in accordance with the International Religious
Freedom Act in order to provide enough time for the GVN and
the USG to jointly develop a work plan for GVN actions to
address the problems identified in the Religious Freedom
Report and ultimately avoid CPC designation in the future.
AFM Hung stated that the GVN would prefer to call it an
action plan rather than a work plan, and that the GVN was
convinced that it would not need the 90-day waiver. The GVN
would be able to agree on an action plan and exchange
diplomatic notes to that effect before the early March
deadline. This, Hung said, would avoid the politically
unpleasant image of the United States extending Vietnam's
"probation period" by 90 days, during which high-level GVN
officials would be expected to travel to the United States
to make arrangements for the Prime Minister's visit. It is
particularly important, AFM Hung said, to have the short-
term CPC issue "resolved" before the March 21 visit to Texas
and Washington of Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang. Dr.
Green confirmed that if the USG and GVN were able to come to
agreement on a mutually acceptable "action plan" on
religious freedom, and solidify that agreement with an
official exchange of diplomatic notes before the 180-day
deadline, there would be no need for a 90-day waiver.