|10HANOI23||2010-02-10 06:43:00||CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN||Embassy Hanoi|
1.(C) Summary: MFA DG for the Americas Nguyen Ba Hung told visiting
DAS Marciel February 5 Vietnam was "ready to take cooperation to a
new level." Ba Hung noted the GVN's willingness to assist
Afghanistan, support a central U.S. role in the East Asia Summit,
support the President's non-proliferation agenda, and encourage
Burmese leaders to support national reconciliation. DAS Marciel
reaffirmed the USG's commitment to relations with Vietnam, but
cautioned that recent convictions of political dissidents, poor
handling of Dong Chiem and Bat Nha, and proposed price controls
could lead to questions about Vietnam's commitment to reform and
the rule of law. Ba Hung did not take issue with the points, but
encouraged the U.S. and Vietnam to discuss issues frankly. Ba Hung
said former President Clinton had told PM Dung in Davos during the
WEF that he was willing to travel to Vietnam in June, and perhaps
his visit could be part of the commemoration of the 15th
Anniversary. Ba Hung hinted the GVN was considering releasing
Father Ly on humanitarian grounds to allow him to travel abroad for
medical attention, but ruled out releasing Le Cong Dinh any time
soon. End summary.
2. (SBU) The DCM hosted MFA DG for Americas Nguyen Ba Hung and EAP
DAS and ASEAN Ambassador Marciel for a 90-minute working breakfast
February 5. MFA Americas Deputy Director Vu Viet Dung and Americas
Desk Officer Tran Thanh Tam accompanied Ba Hung. Political
Counselor and Poloff completed the American side.
3. (C) Ba Hung opened the discussion by briefing DAS Marciel on
several GVN "multilateral initiatives consistent with U.S. policy."
Following up on Senator Bond's inquiry, pursuant to an agreement
last year between the Afghan and Vietnamese governments, Vietnam is
willing to provide assistance to Afghanistan, but progress has been
slow due to "difficulties in Kabul." The Afghan government has
sent the GVN a "long list of areas" where they need assistance,
mostly in the agricultural sector, and the MFA hopes to devise a
concrete program to assist. Specific ideas under consideration
include bringing Afghans to rural Vietnam to observe poverty
alleviation programs. Ba Hung did not say when he thought the GVN
would respond to the Afghan laundry list, but noted the Foreign
Ministry was trying to encourage other ministries, including
Agriculture, to contribute. On the East Asia Summit, Ba Hung said
that PM Dung (while in Davos for the WEF) reportedly endorsed the
Indonesian FM's proposal for a strong role for the U.S. and Russia.
"The U.S. can count on Vietnam's support," and Vietnam (as ASEAN
chair) will encourage other ASEAN members to support the
initiative, Ba Hung said.
4. (C) Turning to Burma, Ba Hung praised the new U.S. policy and
offered that Vietnam is urging Burmese leaders to open Burmese
society and support national reconciliation. Burma "trusts"
Vietnam and the Vietnamese ambassador ("a real China hand") in
Rangoon has good relations with the Burmese leadership. Ba Hung
noted GVN concern about growing Chinese influence in Burma and said
it was important to strive for a "good, long-term solution between
Burma and ASEAN," cautioning against pressing too hard for
short-term results. DAS Marciel pushed back, noting it was
important for Burmese leaders at a minimum to take concrete steps
domestically and begin to play a positive role internationally.
DAS Marciel encouraged the GVN to use its position as ASEAN chair
and Burma's respect for Vietnam to encourage the Burmese leaders to
do the right thing.
5. (C) On non-proliferation, Ba Hung said PM Dung wants to attend
the President's Nuclear Summit "even though April is an important
month domestically" (in the run-up to the January 2011 Communist
Party Congress) in order to highlight to the Vietnamese people the
importance of working with the U.S. and the larger international
community on non-proliferation issues. Ba Hung confirmed the GVN's
intention to sign the civilian nuclear MOU in Washington and issue
a joint statement expressing its interest in initiating 1-2-3
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negotiations. Ba Hung reiterated PM Dung's desire for "a very
brief official" Oval Office meeting (important to highlight to the
Vietnamese the significance of non-proliferation issues) on the
margins of a meeting with other ASEAN leaders. PM Dung also would
like to see the National Security Advisor. DAS Marciel welcomed PM
Dung's participation in the Summit and support for
non-proliferation. He offered to relay the GVN's interest in an
Oval Office meeting, but noted the difficulty of arranging
bilateral meetings between more than 40 heads of state and the
President on the margins of the Summit.
6. (C) Moving to the bilateral relationship, Ba Hung said the GVN
was prepared "to take our cooperation to a new level." He deferred
discussion of specifics to an unspecified future date, but said the
GVN wished to use 2010 - the 15th anniversary of normalization of
relations between the U.S. and Vietnam - to jump-start the process.
Ba Hung said former President Clinton had told PM Dung recently
that he was willing to travel to Vietnam in June, and perhaps his
visit could be part of the commemoration of the 15th Anniversary.
Ba Hung said the GVN wanted to highlight the anniversary because
relations had progressed very far in a short time. Ba Hung
expressed support for convening a symposium in Hanoi and said PM
Dung would be interested in an exchange of letters with POTUS to
commemorate the anniversary and to signal the importance of the
7. (C) DAS Marciel replied the President and the Secretary were
committed to ASEAN and the region, and the USG is interested in
deepening relations with Vietnam, given its positioning in the
region and potential to bring about positive change here. However,
the mood in Washington toward Vietnam was souring, with even
Vietnam's traditional friends inside and outside of government
expressing concerns about Vietnam's commitment to reform in light
of a string of recent convictions of political activists, poor
handling of Dong Chiem and Bat Nha incidents (refs. A-B), and
proposed price controls. DAS Marciel raised the mounting pressure
in Washington to re-designate Vietnam as a Country of Particular
Concern (CPC) on religious freedom. Senior USG officials will
continue to raise human rights, given their importance in the
overall relationship and because lack hinders progress in other
8. (C) Ba Hung expressed appreciation for DAS Marciel's frank
assessment. He did not take issue with the points, but argued both
sides have their "domestic constituencies" and encouraged the U.S.
and VN to discuss our differences frankly. Ba Hung said these were
"difficult" issues for GVN leaders. As "anti-Communist groups" in
the U.S. criticize Vietnam on human rights and religious freedom,
GVN leaders view this criticism through the "anti-communist" prism
and harden their positions further. When the Executive Director of
Boat People SOS travels to Malaysia and "incites" Vietnamese
workers to protest against the Malaysian and Vietnamese governments
for alleged cruel treatment, "it makes it difficult for us," Ba
Hung claimed. DAS Marciel replied that the images conveyed by
Vietnamese officials forcibly evicting nuns from Bat Nha and
blowing up crucifixes at Dong Chiem tarnish Vietnam's image as a
reformer and undermine Vietnam's otherwise improving record on
religious freedom. Ba Hung said the GVN wanted to do a better job
of engaging the Vietnamese Diaspora abroad, especially in the U.S.
He noted that a delegation led Chairman of the State Committee for
Overseas Vietnamese Nguyen Thanh Son would travel to the U.S. later
this year to meet with Vietnamese-Americans, especially
9. (C) Ba Hung then raised the Father Ly case. He recalled
Canada's offer last December to receive Father Ly and asked if
Father Ly would leave Vietnam if released. The DCM noted that
Father Ly consistently has said he does not want to leave Vietnam;
Ba Hung countered that perhaps arrangements could be made to allow
him to leave Vietnam temporarily to seek medical treatment and then
return to jail in Vietnam. DAS Marciel reminded Ba Hung of the
considerable high-level attention to Father Ly's case in the U.S.,
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and cautioned it would not be wise for him to die in prison in
Vietnam. Ba Hung agreed.
10. (C) The DCM then asked "informally" about the possibility of
allowing Le Cong Dinh to resettle in the U.S. on humanitarian
grounds. Ba Hung replied "it is too early to talk about that one,"
given the political sensitivity surrounding this "high-profile"
individual. Ba Hung reiterated the official GVN position - Dinh
violated national security laws - and explained that the Ministry
of Public Security had considerable evidence that he worked with
others abroad, including Viet Tan, to overthrow the government. Ba
Hung closed by stating that this case "must be handled very
carefully to avoid rising tensions" in Vietnam, but concluded
saying "we will work with you on this one."
11. (SBU) DAS Marciel and the DCM then urged the GVN to approve all
pending position requests, arguing that inadequate Mission staffing
made it difficult to move forward on other issues in the
relationship. Ba Hung referred to a staffing cap "agreed to but
not written down" (and unknown to Post) just after the turn of the
century, but said the GVN inter-agency was "close" to submitting a
recommendation on removing the cap to the PM. Ba Hung declined to
give a timeframe for that move and demurred that some GVN officials
and agencies still questioned the need for staff growth.
12. (U) DAS Marciel cleared this message.