Cablegate: Likely Mfa Reshuffle Would Send New Ambassador To
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0684 1011026
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111026Z APR 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5117
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 2877
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS HANOI 000684
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV VM
SUBJECT: LIKELY MFA RESHUFFLE WOULD SEND NEW AMBASSADOR TO
1. (SBU) Summary: Embassy contacts are suggesting that the MFA's
leadership will soon undergo a reshuffle, probably in May. If these
reports bear out, three current vice foreign ministers will become
ambassadors in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo, and high-level
responsibility for the U.S. portfolio at the MFA will change hands.
2. (SBU) According to MFA sources, Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong
Phung is "likely, though not finally confirmed" to be the next
Vietnamese Ambassador to the United States. His nomination process
is still underway, but "there's only one nomination for this
position," according to one MFA contact. Since March 2004, Phung
has been the most senior of the MFA's four vice ministers and
oversees the Asia portfolio at the Ministry. In 2000, he headed the
delegation that negotiated border issues with China. He served as
ambassador to Thailand during 1993-97.
3. (SBU) A third-country embassy colleague who has worked with Phung
described him as "reserved, measured and cautious." He is said to
speak so softly in meetings that it can be difficult to hear him.
His role in the border negotiations with China was cited as an
indication that he has the confidence of high-level GVN leadership.
Phung's son reportedly began an assignment at the Vietnam Embassy in
Washington in 2005, and since that time there has been speculation
that Phung would follow. He is known to be a heavy smoker and avid
golfer. MFA colleagues respect Phung and have indicated to us that
his assignment to Washington is a sign of Hanoi's focus on the
bilateral relationship, despite his lack of recent experience in
4. (SBU) Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang, who currently covers the
Americas portfolio, is expected become the Vietnamese ambassador in
Beijing. VFM Bang himself has told us he is resisting the
appointment to Beijing (he says he would rather lead Vietnam's
expanded UN Mission as the country sits on the UNSC), but the fact
he accompanied DPM/FM Pham Gia Khiem on his recent trip to Beijing
indicates that he has probably lost that battle.
5. (SBU) VFM Bang's departure raises the question who will replace
him as the VFM in charge of U.S. affairs. We have heard from an MFA
source that, while again "nothing has been decided definitely,"
Assistant Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh is in line to take over
for VFM Bang. AFM Minh previously ran the MFA's International
Organizations Department and is in charge of the various human
rights dialogues. At present, he is reportedly already "handling"
the U.S. account. He is slated to head the GVN delegation to our
April 24 bilateral Human Rights Dialogue in Washington. Our
previous contacts with AFM Minh have shown him to be effective and
sharp, but also pretty tough.
6. (SBU) According to another MFA source, AFM Minh is also mentioned
as having good long-term prospects for the Foreign Minister
position. He was the only MFA official included in the new Central
Party Committee last April (as an alternate), apart from the Foreign
Minister himself, who is a Politburo member. In addition, Minh is
the son of former Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Co Thach, who,
during his tenure (1980-91), reportedly helped lead Vietnam into
"Doi Moi." He attended the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
7. (SBU) In other changes, we have heard that current MFA spokesman
Le Dzung will head the Vietnamese Consulate General in San
Francisco, VFM Nguyen Phu Binh will be sent as ambassador to Tokyo
and AFM Nguyen Trung Thanh will be the new ambassador in Singapore.
8. (SBU) Comment: In the past, Phung has performed well in tough
assignments. If he is indeed sent to Washington, it would suggest
that, far from seeing its bilateral agenda fulfilled, the GVN
predicts a lot of work ahead. Post will continue to track the
progress of the MFA's personnel changes.