Cablegate: Scenesetter for Acting Assistant Secretary For

DE RUEHHI #1966/01 3240737
R 200737Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) Acting Assistant Secretary Mull: Mission Vietnam looks
forward to welcoming you to Hanoi. Your visit will be an important
contribution to the growing U.S.-Vietnam relationship, especially in
advance of Vietnam taking its seat on the UNSC next year. Your
visit comes on the heels of November visits by Secretary of Commerce
Carlos Gutierrez, Assistant Secretary for International
Organizations Kristen Silverberg, EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary
Scot Marciel and Congressman Eni Faleomaveaga, Chairman of the House
Asia-Pacific Subcommittee. Your discussions will allow us to
highlight a broad area of bilateral cooperation that to date has
lagged behind its potential, including in the security area.

2. (SBU) A series of high-level bilateral visits, the highlights of
which were President Bush's trip to Vietnam in November 2006 and
President Nguyen Minh Triet's Washington visit in June 2007, have
helped push the bilateral relationship to a higher plane. Vietnam's
desire last year to successfully host APEC and accede to the WTO
also helped strengthen bilateral ties. Vietnam's recent election to
a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council during the 2008-2009
term, and its emerging leadership role in ASEAN, are also key
indications of the GVN's desire to pursue a more outward looking and
engaged role in the world community.

3. (SBU) Our strengthening relations are in large part due to
Vietnam's realization that the United States is an important force
in maintaining a stable geopolitical environment in which even
"small" countries like Vietnam are assured their independence and
freedom of action. Vietnam also sees in the United States an
increasingly important source of financial and technical assistance
and a huge market for Vietnamese goods. For these reasons,
Vietnam's leaders are committed to continued progress in bilateral
relations and will likely speak positively and optimistically about
the future of U.S.-Vietnam ties. Differences over human rights
remain, however, and lingering fears that the United States supports
the overthrow of the current regime continue to complicate the
relationship. China also looms as a factor coloring Hanoi's
reactions to our proposals in the security realm, as discussed
further below.

Counterterrorism: Case-by-Case Cooperation

4. (SBU) Vietnam says the right things about terrorism, underscoring
its willingness to respond rapidly to specific cases or incidents.
However, in response to our efforts, together with like-minded
countries, to urge GVN participation in multilateral efforts such as
the Proliferation Security Initiative and the Global Initiative to
Combat Nuclear Terrorism, the GVN has stood firm in limiting its
involvement to cooperation only on a "case-by-case basis."
Nonetheless, the GVN and the United States have made gradual
progress in strengthening our joint counterterrorism efforts.
During President Bush's visit last year, the President and his
Vietnamese counterpart pledged to increase cooperation to halt the
proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related technology
and materials in accordance with international and national laws and
each country's capacities. The U.S.-led project to repatriate
Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from the Nuclear Research Institute in
Dalat and convert the reactor to Low Enriched Uranium (LEU),
completed in mid-September, was an important deliverable on this
commitment. The United States provides counterterrorism assistance
to Vietnam by funding Vietnamese participation in
counterterrorism-related training at the International Law
Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, and through
military-to-military exchanges with an emphasis on counterterrorism
themes. We'd like to do much more.

5. (SBU) In the multilateral arena, Vietnam has signed eight out of
13 UN terrorism conventions. Approval of the remaining five is
winding its way through the cumbersome GVN bureaucracy, the delay
explained in part by GVN concern with its capacity to carry out
obligations under the conventions. Two of the remaining conventions
are reportedly in the final stages of GVN approval, while the status
of the other three remains unclear.

Gradual Progress in Defense Cooperation

6. (SBU) Defense relations have advanced at a measured pace, but
reflect the overall positive shift in the relationship. We conduct
professional military exchanges with the People's Army of Vietnam
(PAVN) in a limited but growing range of areas including military
law, military nursing, public affairs, search and rescue,
meteorological/ oceanographic (METOC) prediction, and disaster
preparedness. PAVN officers have been invited as observers to Cobra
Gold for the past four years and routinely attend U.S. Pacific

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Command-sponsored multilateral conferences. Since 1997, over sixty
GVN officials, including more than thirty PAVN officers, have
attended courses and seminars at the Asia Pacific Center for
Security Studies (APCSS). PAVN also sent observers to the annual
Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises this
summer, and they provided very positive feedback from that
opportunity. During the recent Chiefs of Defense conference in
Hawaii, the PAVN Deputy Chief of the General Staff told the Pacific
Commander that Vietnam was willing to do a search and rescue
exercise with the United States in CY2008. This would be very
positive step forward and Admiral Keating, the Commander of the
USPACOM, is likely to follow up on this offer during his visit to
Vietnam in December.

7. (SBU) Since 2003, U.S. Navy ships have made five port visits to
Vietnam, including most recently a November 14-18 visit by two mine
countermeasures ships, the USS Guardian and the USS Patriot, at
Haiphong port. In July, Vietnam participated in the Pacific
Partnership mission of the U.S.S. Peleliu (LHA 5). This vessel,
which docked for two weeks at Danang, served as a working area for
civilian and military medical professionals to provide a full range
of medical, dental and construction services. In 2005, Vietnam
agreed to participate in the International Military Education and
Training Program (IMET), and the first two officers from the PAVN
completed their IMET-sponsored (almost one year long) English
language training in Texas this year. In October, we sent an
additional six officers for training in the United States. This
year, we have accelerated the pace of IMET and will provide a
language laboratory in Hanoi using IMET funds. In addition, IMET
will expand mil-mil contacts in FY08 to U.S. mobile training team
visits for Search and Rescue and for military medical techniques
training. This will open a new phase in bilateral military
contacts. Reaching our full potential for closer cooperation in
defense activities, including multilateral peacekeeping,
humanitarian assistance efforts and attendance at U.S. military
schools exists, is attainable, but will require time, persistence
and patience.

Expanding U.S. Naval Ship Visits

8. (SBU) While we have regularized our SOP for regular ship visits
over recent years, the GVN has remained firm in limiting the
frequency of port visits by U.S. Navy vessels to one a year. This
restriction is frequently cited as being consistent with GVN laws
that regulate visits by foreign warships; however, some other
nations conduct more frequent port visits. While it may be
unproductive to demand more frequent port calls, we still seek to
persuade the GVN to permit more frequent access for limited,
technical calls (i.e., for refueling and replenishment). This would
support our overall goal of increasing routine access for U.S. Naval
vessels at Vietnam's ports, while not escalating the pace of
military contacts beyond a level that is comfortable for the GVN.
We also hope to continue asking the GVN to participate in fly-outs
and believe that the general positive trend in the relationship will
result in an acceptance at some point, hopefully soon.

9. (SBU) Similarly, we hope to reverse the PAVN leadership's
reluctance to participate in distinguished visitor fly-outs to U.S.
Navy vessels transiting the South China Sea. To date, these have
been rebuffed due to concerns over the "appearance of Vietnam's
participation in joint exercises with the United States." This,
clearly, is code for limiting advances in the relationship to a pace
that does not discomfort the Chinese.

Peacekeeping Operations

10. (SBU) Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) are well outside the range
of normal PAVN missions of protecting sovereignty and preserving the
Communist Party regime. Over past years, however, the GVN has
expressed increasing interest in the potential for involvement in
PKO missions, especially those organized under UN auspices. We
believe that Vietnam's recent election to a non-permanent seat on
the UN Security Council during the 2008-2009 term has given
significant impetus to this thinking. Vietnamese military leaders
remain cautious, however, saying that Vietnam would focus Vietnam's
PKO participation only on providing medical or engineer support
missions, including demining.

11. (SBU) Several PAVN officers have already gone abroad to
participate in Peace Operations Military Observer's Courses offered
by several nations and in 2005 the GVN hosted a strategic-level
peacekeeping seminar in Hanoi sponsored by Great Britain. PAVN
leaders nonetheless have yet to discuss Vietnamese commitment to any
actual PKO contingency. To move to that stage, the GVN would have
to do much more to meet the remaining challenges of the lack of
interoperability, the paucity of English language speakers in the

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military and complications due to funding issues.

Consequences of War

12. (SBU) In your meetings, you are likely to hear references to
"consequences of war" or "legacies of war" issues. This is the
catch-all term that the GVN applies to a myriad of problems,
including Agent Orange(AO)/Dioxin contamination, unexploded ordnance
(UXO) and land mines from the war era, and the incomplete recovery
of missing Vietnamese military personnel.

13. (SBU) While scientists and GVN officials continue to debate the
human impact of the 80 million liters of AO sprayed over 2.6 million
hectares and 3,000 hamlets in Vietnam, recent GVN-approved studies
reveal that Dioxin contamination is not widespread, but rather is
concentrated in roughly 20 "hotspots." Former U.S. bases, from
which Operation Ranch Hand missions were staged and AO was stored,
have soil dioxin concentrations exceeding concentration levels
recommended by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and
World Health Organization, while other areas thought to be targets
of heavy aerial spraying do not currently have soil concentrations
considered hazardous to health.

14. (SBU) Much has been accomplished recently in turning a new leaf
on the AO/Dioxin issue with regards to government-to-government
relations and changing the tone of the dialogue both in meetings and
in the press. On November 17, 2006 the Joint Statement between the
GVN and USG on the occasion of President Bush's visit to Vietnam
stated: "The U.S. and Vietnam also agreed that further joint efforts
to address the environmental contamination near former Dioxin
storage sites would make a valuable contribution to the continued
development of their bilateral relationship." In 2005, the
Department of Defense conducted a dioxin remediation workshop in
Hanoi and shared the U.S. experience in dioxin remediation with GVN.
Beginning in 2006, the State Department and EPA provided USD
400,000 in technical assistance to the GVN's Office 33 and MOD's
Chemical Command for remediation planning and immediate
interventions at the Danang airport. Congress recently appropriated
an additional USD 3 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) for
"dioxin mitigation and health activities," thereby helping Vietnam
to remediate areas with demonstrably high levels of dioxin and
assist those with disabilities. This follows four years of USG
support to build the capacity of the Vietnam Academy of Science for
analysis of contaminated soils and sediment. The USG is continuing
to work with the GVN, and in parallel to efforts by UNDP, Ford
Foundation and other NGOs, to examine the next steps in the
environmental remediation of three priority hotspots in Danang, Hoa
Binh and Phu Cat airfields. Developing a partnership to share all
information and best practices in environmental remediation between
the DOD and MOD would be well received by the GVN.

Impacts of Remaining UXO

15. (SBU) Since 1989, USAID, through support from the Patrick J.
Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) and other sources, has provided over
USD 43 million to support NGOs and private voluntary organizations
to develop comprehensive programs for people with disabilities. In
addition, since 1993 the USG has been actively involved in assisting
the people of Vietnam in overcoming the social and economic impacts
of remaining UXO from the war. Vietnam was formally accepted as the
37th participant in the U.S. Humanitarian De-mining Program in June
2000, and the USG is now the largest donor of humanitarian
assistance for mine action programs in Vietnam. The USG has
invested over USD 37 million in a broad spectrum of programs not
only to locate, remove and destroy unexploded ordnance and
landmines, but also to address the UXO effects on health and
livelihood of Vietnamese living in affected areas.

16. (SBU) Today, various NGOs conduct UXO and land mine clearance,
risk education and victim rehabilitation. The USG has also donated a
significant quantity of equipment to the PAVN to assist efforts in
UXO and landmine clearance and return land to productive use. In
2006, the State Department provided USD 3.5 million to support UXO
action and demining activities in Vietnam, almost a third of which
went directly to PAVN in the form of donated demining equipment. In
2007, an additional USD 2.5 million will be provided to underwrite
mine action related activities in Vietnam. In initial budgets, USG
funds for demining have been cut substantially, which will force
tough choices as we continue this program.

Fullest Possible Accounting

17. (SBU) Predating the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and
normal defense contacts, U.S. military and DoD elements continue
their efforts toward the fullest possible accounting of Americans

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missing from the Vietnam Conflict. Since 1988, the Joint POW/MIA
Accounting Command (JPAC), a USPACOM subordinate element, has
evolved to include forward Detachments in Vietnam, Laos, and
Thailand/Cambodia. With its Vietnam Detachment (Det 2), it has
completed 90 Joint Field Activities (JFA), which incorporated
extensive research, interviews, analysis, and excavations in order
to accomplish its mission. From its inception, Det 2 has forged
excellent relations with its GVN counterparts (notably, the Vietnam
Office for Seeking Missing Persons or VNOSMP) Ultimately, JPAC's
efforts in Southeast Asia have resulted in accounting for 880
American's who were previously unaccounted for. The foundation has
been set for sustaining JPAC's success as it continues to account
for the remaining 1766 missing Americans throughout Southeast Asia.

18. (SBU) JPAC Det 2 is currently working toward the: (1) admission
of JPAC teams to research or recover cases located in select areas
of high GVN sensitivity; (2) the access to information held in
classified military and security ministry archives and records that
have not previously been made available to USG; and (3) further
assistance in resolving cases in Laos and Cambodia where members of
Vietnam's armed forces might provide the largest pool of

19. (SBU) An area of heightened bilateral cooperation is the
undertaking of investigation and recovery efforts at sea. During
the Vietnam Conflict, more than 400 American aviators were lost in
the waters off the coast of Vietnam. While the majority of those
American's were declared dead and their remains deemed not
recoverable, JPAC continues to conduct underwater investigation and
survey activity when information obtained and validated has the
potential to lead to a recovery. This is a resource-intensive
endeavor. In December, 2006 the GVN gave its approval for the use of
U.S. naval vessels to operate within their territorial waters in
order to enhance JPAC's underwater investigations towards the
identification of potential recovery sites.

Humanitarian Assistance

20. (SBU) Since 1995, U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) programs have provided aid in legal reform, governance,
economic growth, HIV/AIDS, environmental protection and disaster
prevention. For FY 2007, total U.S. assistance from all agencies
was about USD 86.6 million, most of which has gone towards providing
health-related assistance, notably in the area of HIV/AIDS treatment
and prevention. Vietnam is one of fifteen countries in the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The United
States provided USD 65 million in 2007 to expand integrated HIV/AIDS
prevention, care and treatment programs. This figure includes
approximately USD 3.1 million dollars for the Department of Defense
(DOD)-managed portion of PEPFAR HIV/AIDS programs with Vietnam's
Ministry of Defense.

21. (SBU) Since 2000, DOD has supported a wide variety of Overseas
Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid (OHDCA) projects in Vietnam.
Through USPACOM, the U.S. Government has sponsored the construction
of eight medical clinics in Thua Thien-Hue Province, a primary
school in Quang Binh Province, and two centers for disabled children
in Quang Binh Province. This past summer, two additional
humanitarian assistance construction projects were completed and
turned over to local authorities in Central Vietnam: a medical
clinic in Quang Binh Province, and a 10-room primary school in Quang
Tri Province. Additionally, USPACOM has facilitated multiple
donations of excess medical property to various medical facilities
throughout Vietnam.

22. (SBU) Through a combination of Fulbright grants and the Vietnam
Education Foundation (VEF), an innovative program created through
legislation to facilitate the training of Vietnamese scientists, the
United States sponsors over 100 students yearly for graduate study
in the United States. The Fulbright program is the largest in Asia.
The VEF was established with the unpaid proceeds of loans extended
to the old South Vietnamese government. Another important activity
is the Fulbright Education Training Program, through which 70
mid-level Vietnamese professionals receive in-country training in
economics and public policy each year.

A Word on the Economy, WTO and Investment

23. (SBU) Vietnam today is fueled by a dynamic economy, which grew
at an 8.1% rate last year. Per capita annual income jumped from
about $220 in 1994 to $720 in 2006. The 20-year old economic reform
program known as "Doi Moi" (renovation) has been effective in
promoting market-oriented changes and has improved the quality of
life for many Vietnamese. Foreign trade and foreign direct
investment have increased dramatically and poverty rates have

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dropped. Vietnam formally acceded to the WTO as its 150th member on
January 11, 2007. Vietnam's chief exports are crude oil, textiles,
footwear and aquatic products. The United States is currently
Vietnam's third largest overall trade partner (behind China and
Japan), but remains its largest export market. The economy still
faces challenges, especially from the inherent difficulties of
transforming legacy command-economy structures, systemic corruption
and the slow pace of reform in many areas.

Future Prospects

24. (SBU) Since 1991, the GVN has sought to improve diplomatic ties
both regionally and worldwide. The GVN recognizes the strategic
importance of the United States in the region and the world, but is
not shy about raising the specter of "peaceful evolution," or to
criticize U.S. actions it perceives as outside the multilateral
system. They routinely chafe over U.S. criticism of Vietnam's
record of human rights and religious freedom. Nonetheless,
Vietnam's leaders are also pragmatic and recognize that Vietnam's
own continued economic well-being, growth and security are, in large
measure, inexorably tied to its relationship with the United

25. (SBU) Vietnam has begun to explore opportunities within regional
organizations, to increase joint efforts against terrorism,
narcotics, maritime piracy and other issues of shared concern.
Vietnam has also recently begun joint sea patrols with other
neighbors in the Gulf of Thailand and has established hotlines to
help facilitate coordination along sea boundaries. The recent
success of the Royal Thai Navy rescue of Vietnamese seamen adrift in
the Gulf of Thailand was largely credited to the use of one such
hotline. Nevertheless, for historic and foreign policy reasons, the
GVN is generally reluctant to speak out against its "traditional
friends" such as North Korea and Iran when they engage in behavior
that the rest of the international community condemns.

The China Factor

26. (SBU) China, again, constitutes Vietnam's most important
strategic preoccupation. Relations must remain on an even keel, and
Hanoi has no illusions about the relative power balance. Vietnam's
huge neighbor to the north constitutes a vital and necessary
commercial partner and former ally. The two nations share
ideological roots. At the same time, China is perceived as a
constraint to Vietnam's freedom of action, and the undertone of
Beijing's dominance in the relationship has a nasty implication due
to China's 1,000 year history of colonial domination. Even today,
Beijing appears to be willing to set aside its core policy strategy
of improving relations with nations on its periphery when faced with
energy security and sovereignty issues. Both of these are coming
into play as China engages in bullying of foreign companies to cause
them to cease oil and gas exploration efforts in the South China
Sea, as has been reported in the press.

27. (SBU) Sensitivity about China's possible reactions to engagement
with the United States has definitely not constrained Hanoi
willingness to engage on broad economic issues. We are a driver of
Vietnam's integration into the world economy, which is not
proceeding according to the "Chinese model." On security matters,
however, GVN reluctance to engage with us more fully is attributable
to concern over China's potential reaction, in particular, mixed
with an institutional conservatism born out of concern over
"peaceful evolution" as a real threat to the regime. Also, there is
an ingrained caution on the part of Vietnam's military in the face
of relative power calculations vis-`-vis China. As documented
above, while progress is still being made, we are moving at a
measured pace and within these constraints.

What You Can Expect

28. (SBU) You can expect your interlocutors not only to be
articulate and well informed, but also to speak in terms generally
supportive of growth in the bilateral relationship. As noted above,
lingering suspicions still exist among conservatives in leadership
about the development of closer ties with the United States, but the
overall tenor is one of support and interest at a measured pace that
will not upset the GVN's calibrated attempts to maintain balance
among its other regional partners. Your upcoming trip to Hanoi will
continue to help translate those good feelings into measurable
accomplishments in the defense and security relationship.

29. (SBU) We look forward to your visit and stand ready to do
everything we can to make your time in Vietnam as productive as

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