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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Deputy Secretary Negroponte Visit To

VZCZCXRO8374
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #0033/01 0100616
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 100616Z JAN 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6981
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 4138
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 HANOI 000033

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR D FROM AMBASSADOR MICHALAK

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV OVIP VM
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR DEPUTY SECRETARY NEGROPONTE VISIT TO
VIETNAM


HANOI 00000033 001.2 OF 006


Summary and Introduction
------------------------

1. (SBU) Deputy Secretary Negroponte: Mission Vietnam looks forward
to welcoming you to Hanoi. Your visit is well timed to focus
Vietnamese leaders on the year ahead, which with focused effort
should bring a further deepening in the bilateral relationship.
While the relationship is broadening and maturing in a satisfying
manner, which bodes well for the future, top-level exchanges like
yours are important. Challenges of course remain. Vietnam's
critical strategic preoccupation remains China, and this can still
complicate our attempts to engage on some issues. The
transformation of the economic, social and technological landscape
continues to create "space" for Vietnam's people, including a
greater ability to be heard, even on some sensitive issues.
However, top leaders continue to try to persuade the people of
Vietnam - with a significant degree of success -- that stability is
the necessary foundation for all advances underway, and the majority
appears willing to accept current restrictions of political activity
on the understanding that the regime will continue to gradually
liberalize.

2. (SBU) Vietnam's economic successes have translated into greater
international clout, especially in the region, and Vietnam's recent
election to a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council has
raised its international profile. Leaders here are not fully sure
how to handle all the attention, but understand that the United
States has - and is - playing a direct role in creating the
conditions for their nation's success. Leaders here are thankful,
in particular, for the key technical assistance we've given over the
past seven years in reforming the system of economic governance.
They want more. We are increasingly able to expand our efforts into
the broader areas of good governance and education.

3. (SBU) Looking beyond their border, Vietnam's leaders realize 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.
Domestic considerations play a role as well. As Vietnam continues
its rapid economic and social transition, many Vietnamese view the
strength of its relations with the United States as a key indicator
of how much progress has been made in leaving the dark days of the
1970's and 1980's behind. 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.

4. (SBU) One of the drivers for the substantial enhancements in our
relationship to date has been top-level visits like yours. Since
2005, there has been one formal visit between involving either the
Vietnamese Head of State or Head of Government with President Bush
each year. These have definitely proven their worth in spurring
positive changes in Vietnam, and in pinning down those in Vietnam
who might otherwise work to sidetrack or limit those advances. The
White House has invited Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Washington
in 2008. We are working to settle upon dates.

The Economy, WTO and Investment
-------------------------------

5. (SBU) Vietnam's dynamic economy grew by 8.5% in 2007 and has
averaged over 7.5% for the past decade. Per capita annual income
jumped from about $220 in 1993 to over $800 in 2007. Since 1986,
the Vietnamese government has continued to implement an economic
reform program known as "Doi Moi" (renovation). As a result,
effective market-oriented policies have improved the quality of life
for many Vietnamese and have succeeded in slashing the poverty rate
from 58% in 1993 to well under 25% today. Increased trade and
foreign direct investment have been key drivers in Vietnam's
economic growth. Vietnam formally acceded to the WTO as its 150th
member on January 11, 2007. While its chief exports are crude oil,
apparel, footwear and aquatic products, Vietnam is also increasing
its exports of furniture, machinery, cameras, computers, printers,
consumer electronics, coffee, rice and other diverse products. The
United States is currently Vietnam's third largest overall trade
partner (behind China and Japan), but remains its largest export
market. The government still needs to meet the challenges of
expanding infrastructure, increasing energy production, stamping out
corruption, transforming state-owned enterprises (SOEs) into more
competitive entities, improving worker and professional skills,
implementing WTO commitments, and maintaining the course of reform.

Humanitarian and Technical Assistance
-------------------------------------

HANOI 00000033 002.2 OF 006

6. (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, the bulk of which has gone towards
providing health-related assistance, notably in the area of HIV/AIDS
treatment and prevention and the fight against avian influenza.
Vietnam is one of fifteen countries in the President's Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The United States provided USD 65
million in FY 2007 to expand integrated HIV/AIDS prevention, care
and treatment programs. Since 2000, DOD has supported a wide
variety of Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid (OHDCA)
projects in Vietnam. Additionally, USPACOM has facilitated multiple
donations of excess medical property to various medical facilities
throughout Vietnam.

7. (SBU) Unfortunately, U.S. assistance in areas other than HIV/AIDS
remains very modest at roughly $5 million for a country of over 80
million people. While small, several U.S. programs are nonetheless
having a profound impact here. The "STAR" (Support for Trade
Acceleration) program has played a major role in helping Vietnam to
reshape its trade and commercial laws and regulations. While
initially established to help Vietnam comply with its obligations
under the 2001 Bilateral Trade Agreement, STAR also played a
critical role in Vietnam's preparations for WTO membership and its
broader entry into the global economic system. Another small
program, the Vietnam Competitiveness Index (NBCI), is having a real
impact on promoting good economic governance domestically by
providing a quantitative measure of the impact of governance and
rule of law on economic development. Provinces' rankings on the
annual VNCI report are closely watched and leaders of provinces that
score well have a particularly good chance of being promoted to more
senior positions in Hanoi.

8. (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 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 in a
program run by Harvard University.

9. (U) I will host an Education Conference in Hanoi January 24-25 to
help coordinate and spur forward American efforts in education in
Vietnam, broadly defined. The Conference, designed to be a forum
for American universities, companies, NGOs and USG-funded
educational programs, will provide a forum for participants to
generate ideas and action plans about how best to meet three
principal goals: a significant increase in the flow of Vietnamese
students to the United States, more and deeper linkages between
American and Vietnamese universities, and higher quality of human
resources in the pool from which American companies in Vietnam
hire.

Opportunities for Greater Engagement
------------------------------------

10. (SBU) Vietnam's UNSC membership creates a window of opportunity
to encourage Vietnam to speak out in a constructive way on global
security issues, and to help Hanoi distance today's Vietnam from the
NAM and Communist-Bloc focus driving its old-style foreign policy.
We have been proactive here and in Washington in educating GVN
leaders and officials on Burma, North Korea and Iran, where in the
past it has been unwilling to engage constructively with us due to
"traditional friendship" and non-interference. We are also
proactively assisting the GVN to get up to speed on issues beyond
the traditional scope of GVN concern, such as Kosovo and Darfur,
conditioning GVN officials to look toward us for advice - and
constructive support to enhance Vietnam's image as a player -- over
the year.

11. (SBU) As it raises its profile on the world stage, Hanoi is
ready to accelerate its efforts in preparing its military for
participation in UN peacekeeping operations, but has proven
reluctant to jump into a close bilateral relationship with us on
training, despite our efforts to convince the GVN to participate in
PKO training through the Global Peace Operations Initiative. Part
of Hanoi's problem is that it will be setting precedents in
accepting our aid in the security arena that require difficult
internal negotiations and decisions.

Challenges on Human Rights

HANOI 00000033 003.2 OF 006


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

12.(SBU) While we share common views with the GVN in many areas,
differences over human rights remain, and lingering fears that the
United States supports the overthrow of the current regime continue
to complicate the relationship. The existence of groups in the
United States and elsewhere that continue to explicitly advocate
regime change helps generate negative charges by conservatives here
which stoke a lingering paranoia that we are indeed still "the
enemy." Reassuring the GVN that the USG does not support separatist
groups can assist in building a better human rights dialogue based
on mutual trust.

13. (SBU) Serious deficiencies related to human rights in Vietnam
include lack of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom
of the press. One of our key objectives is to end the use of
catch-all "national security" provisions such as Article 88 of the
GVN criminal code, which prohibits "conducting propaganda against
the State." The U.S. Mission tracks approximately 50 individual
cases of prisoners of conscience and activists under various forms
of house arrest or surveillance/harassment. We continue to call for
the release of all prisoners of conscience and freedom of peaceful
expression of political views, but where we see individuals
expressing their political opinions, many of our government
interlocutors see "lawbreakers" trying to destabilize the regime.

14. (SBU) Perceptible progress is, however, being made. Key
Vietnamese leaders are committed to enhancing governance
establishing the rule of law, and combating corruption, all critical
in building guarantees of individual freedoms. Vietnam's leading
newspapers are much more aggressive in terms of the types of news
they publish and their willingness to push back against censors.
Only a few years ago, any protest resulted in swift and severe
police action. Over this past year, various peaceful protests
occurred, with one stretching out for a month before it was finally
ended. With regard to religious freedom, Vietnam has made
surprising progress, in large part due to the intensive engagement
of Ambassador Hanford over recent years. More needs to be done, but
the country no longer qualifies as a particularly severe violator of
religious freedom under our legal definition and we removed the
nation from the list of countries of particular concern in late
2006.

Vietnamese Concerns About China
-------------------------------

15. (SBU) While Vietnam's engagement with the United States will
continue to broaden, China constitutes Vietnam's most important
strategic preoccupation. This is not to say, however, that Vietnam
is "choosing" China over the United States; the situation is much
more complex than that. For starters, Vietnam's leadership is
sophisticated enough to realize that relations with China and the
United States do not represent a zero sum game; it is possible to
have good relations with both. Each relationship also creates
challenges. While China constitutes a vital and necessary
commercial partner and former ally, it is also perceived as a
significant and frustrating constraint to Vietnam's freedom on
action. Chinese bullying of foreign companies in an attempt to
compel them to cease oil and gas exploration efforts in the South
China Sea serves to remind Vietnamese officials that while the
Vietnamese may not approve of all U.S. policies, the same is
certainly true of Chinese actions.

16. (SBU) On security matters, China looms large and there is an
understandable caution with regard to China's potential reaction to
enhancements in cooperation with the United States. U.S.-Vietnam
cooperation in the security field is also constrained by an
institutional conservatism born of concern over "peaceful evolution"
as a real threat to the regime, as well as by an ingrained caution
on the part of Vietnam's military in the face of relative power
calculations vis-a-vis China.

Gradual Progress in Defense Cooperation
---------------------------------------

17. (SBU) Defense relations have nonetheless advanced at a measured
pace, and have actually come quite far if viewed over the past
decade. We are in year three of a new IMET program, and we now have
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. 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. Reaching our full potential for closer

HANOI 00000033 004.2 OF 006


cooperation in defense activities, including multilateral
peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance efforts and attendance at U.S.
military schools is attainable, but will require time, persistence
and patience, and a lot of hard work.

Counterterrorism Cooperation: Case-by-Case Basis
--------------------------------------------- ---

18. (SBU) Vietnam says the right things about the threat of global
terrorism and has participated with us in modest cooperative
activities. 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 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. Vietnam has signed eight out of thirteen 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.

19. (SBU) Vietnam remains hesitant to embrace certain U.S.
initiatives, such as PSI and GPOI, which could help us help Vietnam
enhance its capability to fight terrorism. In part, this reluctance
is based on a lack of recent precedent for military engagement
beyond Vietnam's borders, and the bureaucratic requirements to gain
approval for such initiatives also constitute a barrier in itself.
You are well positioned to explain the importance of progress.

Fullest Possible Accounting
---------------------------

20. (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
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
good relations with its GVN counterparts. Ultimately, JPAC's
efforts in Southeast Asia have resulted in accounting for 880
Americans previously listed as MIA; 1766 remain missing throughout
Southeast Asia.

21. (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
Americans 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.

Consequences of War
--------------------

22. (SBU) In your meetings, you may 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 recovery of missing Vietnamese
military personnel.

23.(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

HANOI 00000033 005.2 OF 006


considered hazardous to health.

24. (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. 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 together with the GVN, UNDP, Ford Foundation and other NGOs
to discuss the next steps in the environmental remediation of three
priority hotspots in Danang, Hoa Binh and Phu Cat airfields.

25. (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.

26. (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.

Adoption Issues
---------------

27. (SBU) Baby buying has emerged as a serious and troubling issue
in Vietnam. We are working toward a new MOA with the GVN that will
allow for adoptions to continue in limited categories. Ideally this
MOA would allow for expansion of these categories as Vietnam makes
progress on legal reform, Hague accession and increased transparency
in the adoption process. We will push for Vietnam to pass new
comprehensive adoption legislation and accede to the Hague
Convention on Intercountry Adoption during 2008 and offer to provide
Vietnam with technical assistance to meet this goal.

Management Issues: New Embassy Compound, APP Danang
--------------------------------------------- ------
28. (SBU) When we established diplomatic relations in 1995, we
rented an "interim" building to set up initial operations. Thirteen
years later, we're still there. When you visit the Hanoi Embassy,
you will note that our facilities are overcrowded, inefficient,
insecure, and just plain ugly. The long term solution involves the
construction of a New Embassy Compound (NEC), a "priority" deferred
for over ten years. U.S. interests in Vietnam dictate that we
create an appropriate platform in Hanoi for our diplomatic
activities in this increasingly important nation. OBO made a
proposal to the GVN to purchase land for the NEC in a newly
developed area in Hanoi; in retrospect, the offer has proved not to
be in accordance with market conditions. In order to move the
process forward, however, we need a counter-offer from the GVN that
would provide the basis for further negotiations for the NEC land
purchase.

29. (SBU) State Department budget limitations may delay the
scheduled opening of APP Danang at least into FY2009. Although we
have not had formal negotiations with GVN officials regarding the
opening of the APP, informal soundings indicate that they are quite
receptive to the idea. We hope a way can be found to begin
negotiations "in principle" with the GVN on new consulates. This
will allow us to get necessary agreements in place before our side
decides to begin allocating funds.

What You Can Expect

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

30. (SBU) While the GVN recognizes the strategic importance of the
United States in the region and the world, leaders here are 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 States.

31. (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
add momentum to our efforts to help translate those good feelings
into measurable accomplishments in our bilateral relationship.

32. (U) Media interest in your visit is high, both among Vietnamese
and international outlets. We are making arrangements for a press
conference and, in addition to questions on the purpose of your
visit and the results or your meetings, would anticipate questions
on China, human rights and the arrest of American citizens and other
suspected of membership in an anti-government organization.

33. (SBU) Again, we look forward to your visit and stand ready to do
everything we can to make your return to Vietnam as productive as
possible.

MICHALAK

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