Cablegate: Gvn Response to U.S. Arf Initiatives and Its Assessment Of
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0550 0810845
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220845Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4953
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2785
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS HANOI 000550
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ARF MARR PARM VM
SUBJECT: GVN RESPONSE TO U.S. ARF INITIATIVES AND ITS ASSESSMENT OF
ARF PROCESS ARE POSITIVE
REF: State 33907
1. (SBU) Summary: On March 22, Poloff presented reftel points and
proposals on ARF initiatives at the MFA ASEAN Department. While the
reaction to the nonproliferation Inter-Sessional Meeting ("ISM") and
cooperation statement initiatives was positive, the proposal to
create ISM working groups reportedly contradicts a current effort by
ASEAN to reduce the number of its meetings. More generally, the GVN
views the ARF very positively as a confidence-building measure among
its diverse members, particularly their military officials. End
Support for U.S. Initiatives Possible
2. (SBU) On March 22, Poloff met with MFA ASEAN Department Assistant
Director Vu Ho to deliver reftel points and proposals on U.S.
initiatives for the upcoming ARF meeting in Helsinki. Ho began by
saying that he would report these initiatives to his leadership for
a decision, and that the proposals would have to be discussed among
the ASEAN members and considered at the next Senior Officials
Meeting. He then informally offered his own views on the
initiatives. In response to the proposal to establish an ISM on
nonproliferation, Ho asked rhetorically, "If China and Singapore
have agreed, then what can we do?" He expressed surprise that
Singapore had agreed to co-chair the proposed ISM without having
first consulted with ASEAN members, "as they are supposed to do."
3. (SBU) Concerning the creation of ISM working groups, Ho said such
a move would run counter to a current ASEAN effort to streamline all
ASEAN-related meetings, including the ARF. "There are already too
many meetings." Also, working groups would have to operate
according to the ASEAN consensus principle, which by necessity
includes all ASEAN members, so the limit of ten members in a working
group could be a problem. Finally, Ho suggested that the Statement
of Cooperation "could be worked out somehow."
GVN Working on New ARF Initiatives for Next Year
4. (SBU) In addition to Ho himself, the GVN delegation to the
Helsinki meeting will consist of a junior colleague from the ASEAN
Department, a colonel from the Ministry of Defense and an official
from the MFA's Consular Department. The GVN will make no proposals
at this meeting, but is thinking about several initiatives for 2008.
Preliminary ideas are an initiative to combat both the
counterfeiting of valuable papers and credit card fraud, as well as
a capacity-building initiative to address natural disasters at sea.
Ho said both these ideas still need to be approved within the GVN
5. (SBU) At the upcoming meeting, the GVN delegation plans to share
the GVN's experience in coping with a recent oil spill, focusing on
the civilian-military cooperation aspect of the effort. The oil
spill occurred over one month ago off the Vietnam coast near Vung
Tau Province. The source of the oil remains unknown and clean-up
GVN Supports the Current ARF Format
6. (SBU) According to Ho, the GVN considers the ARF to be a useful
forum for a number of reasons. For example, many countries
participate, including small, medium and large "players."
Additionally, the "freestyle" nature of the forum is a good format
for dialogue. Any government can be involved in a "comfortable
way," with no pressure to intervene or to attend particular
sessions. Finally, it is the only forum in the region that
discusses both traditional security issues and non-traditional
issues such as avian influenza and smoke hazard.
7. (SBU) ARF meetings are an occasion for "military people to gather
and get to know each other," said Ho. When the GVN first sent a
delegation to attend the ARF, it sent a general dressed in uniform,
carrying a prepared speech. Now an army colonel attends, dressed in
a business suit and carrying only some talking points. While
critics say the ARF is a "talk shop," it is the "ASEAN way." It
works well because it provides the time needed for people to get to
know each other. As an advantage of this format, Ho cited the ARF
experience of the DPRK, whose delegates walked out of the first
meeting they attended, but now they sit through until the end.
There has also been an increasingly conciliatory tone to the ARF's
statements on the South China Sea problem through the years.
Summing up, Ho said the ARF is a good confidence-building measure as
long as the participants are moving in tandem on a consensus basis.
He compared the ARF to a supermarket where "people can come and get
what they want." As a "cross between the UN and a regional talk
shop/seminar," the ARF is useful as a "place to express yourself."