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Cablegate: (U) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's September 11, 2008 Lunch

VZCZCXRO1379
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1042/01 2560850
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120850Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8432
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH IMMEDIATE 5096
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001042

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP NEGROPONTE JOHN PREL PGOV PHUM ECON SENV AMGT
CH, CONS, VM

SUBJECT: (U) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's September 11, 2008 lunch
with Vietnam VFM Pham Binh Minh

HANOI 00001042 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. FOR INTERNAL USG USE. NOT SUITABLE FOR
INTERNET POSTING.

1. (U) September 11, 2008; 1200; Hanoi, Vietnam.

2. (U) Participants:

U.S.
The Deputy Secretary
Ambassador Michael Michalak
DAS Scot Marciel
DCM Virginia Palmer
D Special Assistant Kaye Lee
D Special Assistant Ted Wittenstein
PolCouns Brian Aggeler (Notetaker)

VIETNAM
VFM Pham Binh Minh
DG Americas Department Nguyen Ba Hung
Assistant Director Americas Department Le Chi Dzung
Policy Planning Department Director Bui Thanh Son
Consular Department Director Duong Chi Dung
International Organization Department Director Pham Vinh Quang
Director of Protocol Tran Van Hinh

3. (SBU) SUMMARY. Vietnam's Vice Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh
hosted a lunch for the Deputy Secretary on September 11. VFM Minh
said that such high level visits reflect the steadily improving
U.S.-Vietnam relationship, which is the envy of some other ASEAN
members. He advocated continued engagement with Burma and the DPRK,
noting the GVN's good relations with both regimes. He expressed
appreciation for the USG's statement of support for U.S. companies
doing business in the South China Sea. On the HCMC consular
district, VFM Minh urged the U.S. to accept the GVN offer of nine
additional provinces and reiterated Vietnam's desire to open a
consulate in Houston. The Deputy Secretary responded that nine
additional provinces were not sufficient and the issue would need to
be discussed further. VFM Minh welcomed the Deputy Secretary's news
that Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy would visit
Hanoi to resolve the remaining issues surrounding the construction
of a New Embassy Compound. END SUMMARY.

---------------------------------------------
HIGH LEVEL VISITS REFLECT IMPROVING RELATIONS
---------------------------------------------

4. (SBU) VFM Minh began by noting that the high-level exchanges of
visitors between Vietnam and the United States in recent years could
not have been imagined even a few years earlier. He noted Vietnam
was looking forward to the first meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Joint
Task Force on Education to be held on September 22, the bilateral
Political-Defense talks to be held on October 6, and the visit by
Secretary of Interior Kempthorne later this year. He said Vietnam
hopes Kempthorne's visit will help advance cooperation on
environmental issues, given Vietnam's concern about climate change
and rising sea levels.

5. (SBU) VFM Minh said some fellow ASEAN members are surprised by
the high level of visits between the U.S. and Vietnam. He observed
that some in ASEAN feel that the U.S. has not given enough attention
to the region. The Deputy Secretary responded that this could
certainly not be said of Vietnam, and noted that President Bush and
senior USG officials have made numerous visits to the region. He
said that, whoever wins in the U.S. elections in November, U.S.
policy toward the region is unlikely to change much beyond some
shifts in tone and emphasis.

--------------------------------------------- ---
BURMA AND THE DPRK: VIETNAM ADVOCATES ENGAGEMENT
--------------------------------------------- ---

6. (SBU) The Deputy Secretary said our most problematic issue in
Southeast Asia is Burma. VFM responded that Vietnam has good
relations with Burma that include annual political consultations,
with the most recent round held just the week before. Vietnam has
shared its experiences in reconciliation and emerging from
isolation, he said, and has built trust with Burma. When Burma was
recently devastated by a cyclone, for example, Vietnam offered to
send medical teams - the first time it had offered to send teams
beyond its border. The Deputy Secretary said the Burmese regime is
closed off, afraid of external influences, and asked whether the
cyclone had led to a more open attitude by the regime. It was a
step forward for the regime to receive aid from other countries, VFM
Minh said, but Burma cannot be pushed to get on a fast track for
change. The Deputy Secretary responded that 28 years without
political progress does not constitute a fast track.

HANOI 00001042 002.2 OF 002

7. (SBU) The outside world should make the first step with the
Burmese regime, VFM Minh said. The Deputy Secretary responded that
the first step would be for the regime to open a dialogue with its
people, including Aung San Suu Kyi. DAS Marciel added that the
Burmese authorities have refused to cooperate with UN Special Envoy
Gambari in any meaningful way and said the Burmese opposition has
largely lost hope in his mission. VFM Minh said that in Vietnam's
experience, the more a country is "encircled and embargoed," the
more the people of the country suffer. This is why Vietnam supports
dialogue and engagement with Burma, including Burmese participation
in meetings with ASEAN's partners.

8. (SBU) On the DPRK, VFM Minh noted that Vietnam has exchanged many
high-level visits, and has invited Kim Jong Il to visit Vietnam.
Despite persistent rumors, there are no concrete plans for such a
visit, Minh said, but this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of
then-DPRK leader Kim Il Soong's visit to Vietnam so this would be a
good time for Kim Jong Il to visit. The GVN has no information
about Kim Jong Il's health beyond the rumors being reported in the
news, VFM said. If the U.S. wanted to pass a message to the DPRK,
VFM offered that Vietnam is happy to do it. He noted that Japan and
the DPRK had held talks in Hanoi on the abductee issue. The Deputy
Secretary responded that we generally meet with the DPRK's
representatives in Beijing or New York.

--------------------------------------------- -----
COMPANIES IN SOUTH CHINA SEA: U.S. SUPPORT WELCOME
--------------------------------------------- -----

9. (SBU) VFM Minh expressed appreciation for the USG's statement of
support for U.S. oil and gas companies working in the South China
Sea. Vietnam is having successful discussions with China on
resolving land border issues, but the South China Sea remains a
problem in their otherwise good bilateral relations given China's
maritime claims stretching 1,000 miles beyond her borders.
Ambassador Michalak said ASEAN could play a constructive role by
expressing support for Vietnam. VFM responded that ASEAN repeats
the 2002 Declaration of Conduct and the South China Sea, while
Vietnam seeks a more binding Code of Conduct that China will never
accept.

-------------------------
CONSULAR DISTRICT AND NEC
-------------------------

10. (SBU) On the HCMC consular district, VFM Minh said the
additional nine provinces the GVN had offered were a first step that
he urged the USG to accept, and after "a period of time" it could be
expanded. The key issue is security in the provinces, VFM Minh
explained. The Deputy Secretary said we would not be satisfied with
nine provinces and would need to discuss the issue further. VFM
Minh asked that the U.S. not be made a "special case;" even China is
only entitled to nine provinces in its HCMC consular district. The
Deputy Secretary responded that not all countries have to be treated
the same way; Mexico for example has dozens of consulates in the
U.S. to handle a very different relationship than the one Vietnam
has with the U.S. VFM responded that in practice the work of the
Consulate in HCMC is not limited. Meanwhile, he said, Vietnam very
much wants to open a consulate in Houston. Ambassador Michalak
responded that we would be happy to see Vietnam open a consulate in
Houston as soon as the issue of the HCMC consular district is
resolved so we can serve effectively American citizens as well as
Vietnamese citizens in the south who want to do business with the
U.S.

11. (SBU) On the New Embassy Compound (NEC), the Deputy Secretary
told VFM Minh that Under Secretary Patrick Kennedy would be visiting
Vietnam to resolve the remaining issues and that there was good will
to settle this issue. Minh said Kennedy would be welcome and the
GVN looks forward to working constructively to resolve this issue.

12. (SBU) VFM Minh also raised concern about the U.S. Religious
Freedom report and draft bills in Congress concerning the human
rights situation in Vietnam. The Deputy Secretary said he would
look into the situation. Noting the recent arrests of
Vietnamese-Americans in New Jersey for violating the U.S. Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act, Minh said Vietnam stood ready to cooperate
and takes seriously the need to fight corruption in Vietnam.

MICHALAK

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