Cablegate: Leadership Changes at Mfa, Hanoi City Government

DE RUEHHI #0857/01 2050808
R 230808Z JUL 08



E.O. 12958: N/A


HANOI 00000857 001.2 OF 002


1. (SBU) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has added three vice
ministers, although with some of the four current ministers likely
to take other positions how many total vice ministers the ministry
will have remains to be seen. There is speculation that the changes
lay the groundwork for current MFA Vice Minister Pham Binh Minh to
take over as Foreign Minister, but contacts who regularly interact
with senior Party officials say Minh will not be moving into this
position any time soon. Meanwhile Hanoi Party Secretary and
Politburo member Pham Quang Nghi will stay in his position under the
new expanded Hanoi governing structure (Reftel). Party contacts say
some Politburo members wanted the current Danang Party Secretary to
serve as Hanoi People's Committee Chairman (the number two position
in the new Hanoi structure), but that Nghi and his Politburo allies
successfully fought the proposal. End Summary.

How Many Vice Ministers for MFA?

2. (SBU) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) is in the midst of
re-arranging vice minister portfolios, with a formal announcement on
responsibilities expected "soon." Three career diplomats have
become vice ministers: Doan Xuan Hung, Nguyen Quoc Cuong and Ho Xuan
Son. It is not clear how many vice ministers the MFA will have
after all the dust settles. If none of the current vice minister
slots are eliminated, the MFA would have a total of seven vice

3. (SBU) Currently, the four other vice ministers are Pham Binh Minh
(Americas, Europe and Middle East), Vu Dung (Northeast Asia), Dao
Viet Trung (Protocol) and Nguyen Van Tho (Southeast Asia). Drawing
on his background as former vice chairman of the National Border
Affairs Committee, Ho Xuan Son will cover border issues in his new

Has Pham Binh Minh's Time Come?

4. (SBU) Some local commentators and foreign diplomats say the
changes lay the groundwork for Vice Minister Minh to become Foreign
Minister (FM). They suggest that the MFA, to avoid being too top
heavy, could reduce the number of vice ministers to three. If two
of the current seven vice ministers retire or take on
ambassadorships, the ministry would be left with four vice ministers
and Minh could move up to FM in this scenario.

5. (SBU) Minh has unique strengths as a possible FM. He is the son
of Nguyen Co Thach, who participated in the Paris Peace talks and
who as FM in the late 1980s tried but failed to re-establish
diplomatic relations with the United States. Minh also is a
non-voting member of the 181-person Party Central Committee and,
unlike the current FM, speaks excellent English.

6. (SBU) However, a contact with excellent Party and GVN ties on
July 21 told Poloff it is "unlikely" Minh will take over as FM any
time soon. At 49 years of age, Minh is still relatively young, this
contact explains. While he may have presided over some important
diplomatic successes, such as planning and executing Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dung's recent visit to Washington, the Party has
determined that the person in the FM slot should be on the Politburo
as well, this contact says. Minh currently is a non-voting member
of the Central Committee (CC) and, for him to ascend to the
Politburo, he likely would have to become a voting CC member first,
according to this contact. In addition, some senior leaders remain
pleased (NFI) with Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem's management of
Vietnam's foreign affairs, this contact asserts.

7. (SBU) Another contact who is close to former Foreign Minister
Nguyen Manh Cam (who was FM when Vietnam normalized relations with
the USG) notes that Minh is well-educated and has an important
patron in PM Nguyen Tan Dung. However, the fact that Minh is Nguyen
Co Thach's son may actually hurt his chances of becoming FM, this
contact explains. This is because many current Party leaders have
bad memories of Thach carrying out General Secretary Le Duan's
policy of tilting Hanoi "too heavily" toward the Soviet Union and
"ignoring China," the contact says.

The Party Line-up in Expanded Hanoi

8. (SBU) In other personnel news, the Communist Party of Vietnam on
July 14 announced that Pham Quang Nghi, Poliburo member and current
Hanoi Party Secretary, will remain in his position in the new
expanded Hanoi governing structure (Reftel). A total of five deputy
secretaries, with two from neighboring Ha Tay Province, will serve
under Nghi. As part of the plan to roll Ha Tay provincial
administrators into the expanded Hanoi governing structure, the

HANOI 00000857 002.2 OF 002

Party created new deputy secretary positions as well as other
positions. The new expanded Hanoi Party Executive Committee is
scheduled to hold its first meeting on August 1.

9. (SBU) Party contacts tell us some Politburo members wanted
current Danang Party Secretary Nguyen Ba Thanh to serve as Hanoi
People's Committee Chairman (the number two position under Nghi).
These Politburo members wanted Thanh in this position so he could
drive economic and infrastructure development in the capital area,
these contacts say. (Note: Thanh is known to have done well in
Danang city planning. End Note). However, Party Secretary Nghi and
his Politburo allies successfully scuttled the proposal, these
contacts add.

Comment: Minh's Star on Rise, Thanh's Appeal Fading?
--------------------------------------------- ------

10. (SBU) If Vice Minister Minh continues to deliver successes in
Hanoi's relations with Europe and the United States, he would be
well-placed to follow in his father's footsteps and become FM.
However, he clearly has some work left to do in convincing officials
not in PM Dung's camp that he could deftly carry out Hanoi's foreign
policy of balancing the "big powers" and is the right man for the

11. (SBU) Comment Continued: As for the personnel moves in Hanoi,
Danang Party Secretary Thanh would have shaken things up here.
However, bringing leaders from central Vietnam into northern Party
cliques historically has proven difficult. Many Party and business
contacts regard Thanh as one of the most control-minded Party
Secretaries in the country; nothing gets done in Danang without his
approval. Because he focused on economic development, he helped set
the stage for future growth but may have outlived his usefulness to
the city. Businesses -- both local and foreign investors -- openly
complain about Danang's stifling bureaucracy and opaque

12. (U) This cable was coordinated with ConGen Ho Chi Minh City.


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