2005-04-20 01:41:00
Embassy Hanoi
Cable title:  

The Ambassador's April 18 Meeting with Communist

pdf how-to read a cable
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: The Ambassador's April 18 Meeting with Communist
Party External Relations Commission Chair Nguyen Van Son







E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: The Ambassador's April 18 Meeting with Communist
Party External Relations Commission Chair Nguyen Van Son


1. (SBU) The Ambassador met for the first time April 18 with
Nguyen Van Son, the Chairman of the Communist Party's
External Relations Commission. Chairman Son was optimistic
about continued progress in expanding the bilateral
relationship, noting that the Party attaches importance to
the U.S. role and relations with the United States. On the
subject of the Prime Minister's proposed visit to the United
States, Son observed that this represented a high-level
political decision and would be an important milestone in
bilateral relations. The Ambassador underlined continued
U.S. support for Vietnam's WTO aspirations, but noted that
time is running short. Chairman Son agreed with the
Ambassador on the need for continued Vietnamese efforts to
tackle corruption and improve rule of law to attract greater
U.S. investment. Son also agreed that there is room to
expand bilateral cooperation in areas such as
counterterrorism and counternarcotics. Son said that the
reason for disagreements with the United States on the
issues of human rights, religious freedom and ethnic
minorities is a "lack of understanding." On the subject of
next year's Party Congress, Chairman Son said that the main
theme will be strengthening "doi moi" (renewal) and that
this will include "political doi moi." In terms of foreign
relations, the emphasis will be on "openness and diversity."
End Summary.

PM's Visit, WTO Accession, Expanding Bilateral Coooperation

-------------- --------------

2. (SBU) The Ambassador met for the first time April 18 with
Communist Party External Relations Commission Chairman
Nguyen Van Son. Pol/C and Director of the External
Relations Commission North America Department Nguyen Tien
Nhien also attended. (Note: Chairman Son is the Party's
equivalent of Foreign Minister. End Note.) The Ambassador
opened by noting the remarkable expansion of bilateral
relations over the past ten years. The United States and
Vietnam are currently looking at the possibility of a visit
to Washington by the Prime Minister and are awaiting a green
light from the White House. The biggest issue is timing,
with the Prime Minister's proposed time slot also sought
after by a number of other world leaders, the Ambassador

3. (SBU) We have made good progress in our bilateral
discussions on Vietnam's WTO accession, the Ambassador
continued, and we forwarded to Washington Vietnam's revised
services offer late last week. This represented an
important next step for Vietnam to meet its December
accession goal, but this prospect becomes dimmer as more
time passes. Vietnam not only has to complete negotiations
with 20 other countries but also has to pass through its
legislature a number of laws to bring itself into compliance
with WTO standards, and the Working Party in Geneva will
need to see this draft legislation.

4. (SBU) Of course, there is much more to the bilateral
relationship than just trade and commerce, the Ambassador
noted. Our two countries are working on new agreements
related to agriculture, adoptions, maritime issues and other
areas in which we can expand our cooperation. One
symbolically very important issue is that of cooperation in
the area of military education and training, and we are
close to reaching an agreement on this. The United States
and Vietnam are at the stage where we can take the
relationship to the next level and pursue a strategic
dialogue on matters of mutual concern. For example, the
tension between China and Japan in recent weeks is not in
the interests of Vietnam and the United States, and our two
countries' leadership should discuss this and other issues
when the opportunities present themselves. Furthermore, the
questions of how the United States can strengthen further
its relations with ASEAN and increase the effectiveness of
APEC, and how the East Asian Summit will be established and
its agenda decided are important issues where our interests
may well coincide, the Ambassador said.

5. (SBU) Bilaterally, the United States and Vietnam are
doing good work in many areas, such as in the fullest
possible accounting of our MIAs and cultural and academic
exchanges. But we can do more, both bilaterally and
multilaterally, in these areas and others related to
counterterrorism, counternarcotics and law enforcement
cooperation. We are well aware that the bilateral
relationship would not have developed as well as it has
without the support of Communist Party leadership, and we
hope that we can continue to rely on the Party's support for
further expansion of relations, the Ambassador emphasized.

Son: Party Values Relations with the United States
-------------- --------------

6. (SBU) Chairman Son agreed that continued dialogue and
exchanges are important, as there are many issues for both
sides to discuss. The Communist Party "always values
exchanges and contacts" with the Ambassador and the Embassy
for the sake of developing bilateral relations. "We attach
great importance to the U.S. role and to the U.S.-Vietnam
relationship," Son said.

7. (SBU) On the Prime Minister's proposed visit to the
United States, the Chairman noted that this represented a
"very important political decision taken by the leadership
of Vietnam" in this tenth anniversary year. Vietnam views
this visit as an important event in bilateral relations and
will work closely with the United States in making all the
necessary preparations and arrangements. As for the issue
of other leaders' wanting to visit the United States at the
same time, this is natural as "the United States is the
place most people want to visit," Son said.

8. (SBU) On WTO accession, Son said that Vietnam has a
strong commitment to joining the organization and is trying
its utmost to achieve this goal. However, it seems that
"Vietnam has to do more than others to enter the WTO," Son
opined. Vietnam's National Assembly has plans to pass all
the necessary laws and regulations for WTO accession and has
even "put aside" other work to "wholly dedicate" itself to
this task. Turning to overall bilateral economic relations,
Son said that U.S. investment in Vietnam has yet to reach
its full potential. With Vietnam's economy continuing to
grow, there are many fields with "strong potential" for U.S.
investment, and Son urged the Ambassador to play a role in
encouraging further U.S. investment. Son also expressed his
country's gratitude for U.S. support in expanding bilateral
education and training cooperation.

9. (SBU) Chairman Son agreed that the United States and
Vietnam can achieve better cooperation in other fields and
expressed his hope that the United States would offer new
initiatives. Vietnam, for its part, will do the same. For
example, in the areas of counterterrorism, counternarcotics
and anti-organized crime efforts, the two sides can have
"more active cooperation." "The Ministry of Public Security
is always ready to meet with its American counterparts," Son
stressed. Expanded military-to-military relations,
represented in part by military education and training
cooperation, are also welcome. Vietnam and the Party are
ready for dialogue with the United States in many areas, Son

Human Rights, Religious Freedom and Ethnic Minorities
-------------- --------------

10. (SBU) The Ambassador agreed that increased dialogue at
many different levels is welcome. Responding to the
Chairman's point on U.S. investment, the Ambassador noted
that, while the level of investment appears low, in reality
it is three times higher because the GVN figures do not
reflect investment funneled through third countries, such as
Singapore. That said, the level of U.S. investment is still
not where it should be. To a large degree, this is because
many American investors want to see how Vietnam's economic
reform efforts play out, whether the Bilateral Trade
Agreement is respected by both sides and to what extent
Vietnam's WTO aspirations move forward. Vietnam is
competing with its neighbors for U.S. investment dollars and
thus has to create an economic environment in which
corruption is stamped out, rule of law is the order of the
day and transparency can be relied on. There are positive
signs that Vietnam understands the importance of these
issues, and once investors feel confident about the
situation on the ground in Vietnam, there is a good
possibility for an investment surge, the Ambassador

11. (SBU) As the bilateral relationship grows, there will be
areas in which the United States and Vietnam do not see eye-
to-eye, such as political reform, human rights and religious
freedom, the Ambassador continued. However, in recent
months we have demonstrated that we can approach these
issues in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.
Much work remains, but, in the area of religious freedom, we
are approaching the point where we may be able to move this
issue from the negative to the positive side of the
bilateral ledger. Vietnam has the proper religious freedom-
related policies in place, but implementation is critical,
and, with its nationwide network, the Party has an important
role to play to ensure that implementation throughout
Vietnam is consistent, the Ambassador said.

12. (SBU) Similarly, Vietnam has done some good work to
address the problems faced by certain ethnic minority groups
in the Central and Northwest Highlands, but more needs to be
done to ensure that policies and practices are in place to
remove this as an area of bilateral disagreement. For
example, the United States places great emphasis on family
reunification and the ability to migrate freely, and we hope
that Vietnam will allow certain people to leave and join
their families in the United States in a routine manner, the
Ambassador said.

13. (SBU) Vietnam is actively trying to honor its
international commitments, create a more transparent system
and fight corruption, Chairman Son stressed. However,
Vietnam is not yet a "mature country" like the United
States, and Son asked the Ambassador to understand that
Vietnam "cannot change overnight." Vietnam is also trying
its best to tackle problems related to human rights,
religious freedom, ethnic minorities and family
reunification and migration. The reason for disagreements
with the United States in these areas is a "lack of
understanding," and Son urged us to "have more understanding
of Vietnam's conditions and work together to strengthen

Party Congress

14. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that it is important for U.S.
leadership to understand how Vietnam and the Party set
policy and what their vision for the future is. To that
end, it would be useful to learn how preparations for
Vietnam's Tenth Party Congress are progressing. Chairman
Son replied that the preparations are still at the
"grassroots stage," and that the Congress will be held
"early next year." The Congress' "main theme" will be the
"strengthening of Vietnam's `doi moi' (renewal)." Part of
this will be to "take doi moi further into the field of
`political doi moi' as well as completing the process of
building a state governed by law." In terms of foreign
policy, the Congress will focus on making Vietnam's
relations "more open and diversified," Chairman Son said.

Bio Note

15. (SBU) Soft-spoken to the point of being difficult to
hear above the din of the air conditioning, Chairman Son is
less expansive than other Government and Party leaders we
have met. However, he appears to have a good grasp of the
issues and seemed sincere in his repeated suggestions for
increasing dialogue and exchanges between the Party and the

16. (SBU) Brief bio follows:

Nguyen Van Son

Member of CPV Executive Committee, and Chairman of CPV
Commission for External Relations

Date of Birth: 1946

Education: BA, Scientific and Social Studies.

Work Experience:

1961 - 1962: Worked in movements of Vietnamese youth and

1963 - 1966: Joined the Vietnam People's Army.

1966 - 1972: Studied in Eastern Europe and the former
Soviet Union.

1972 - 1980: Expert in the Party Commission for External

1980 - 1982: Studied at the Ho Chi Minh National Political

1982 - 1991: Expert, [then] Deputy Department Director,
[then] Department Director of the Party Commission for
External Relations. Conducted an international relations
study overseas in 1986.

1992 - 1996: Vice Chairman of the CPV Commission for
External Relations.

July 1996 - present: Member of the Eighth and Ninth Party
Executive Committees, Chairman of the Party Commission for
External Relations.

July 1997 - present: Deputy in the Tenth and Eleventh
National Assemblies; Member of the National Assembly
Commission for External Relations; Chairman of the Vietnam-
Laos Congressional Caucus.

End bio.