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Cablegate: Third Annual Jac Gets Down to Business

VZCZCXRO7825
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1088/01 2660023
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 220023Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8500
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5134
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 6455
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//USDP/ISA/AP/ES//
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J005/J006/J01LA/J06/J5//
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001088

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, EAP/RSP, EAP/PD, OES/PCI
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE, G/ENV
STATE PASS TO EPA/OIA (DENNIS CUNNINGHAM AND MARK KASMAN)
STATE PASS TO EPA/ORD (KEVIN TEICHMAN)
STATE PASS TO OGHA/HHS (STIEGER/VALDEZ/HICKEY)
CDC FOR OGHA (BLOUT/MCCALL) AND NCEH (THOMAS SINKS)
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (THOMAS SHUBERT AND WILLIAM VAN HOUTEN)
HHS PASS TO FIC/NIH (GLASS) AND NIEHS/NIH
BANGKOK PASS TO RDMA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SENV TBIO KPAO VM
SUBJECT: THIRD ANNUAL JAC GETS DOWN TO BUSINESS

Ref: A. 07 Hanoi 1476
B. Hanoi 2113
C. Hanoi 2009
D. Hanoi 1862

1. (U) Summary. During the third annual Joint Advisory Committee
(JAC) on Agent Orange/dioxin, JAC members reviewed U.S.-Vietnamese
cooperation on Agent Orange-related issues over the past year,
discussed ongoing remediation and health projects, and provided
recommendations for future activities, including USAID
implementation of the remainder of the USD 3 million appropriated by
Congress in 2007. For the first time, JAC members invited
participation from several key donors to review how to best
collaborate. Following the JAC, the U.S. Embassy hosted a briefing
session for the broader donor community to update them on U.S.
engagement and to encourage them to join a multilateral effort on
Agent Orange/dioxin and broader public health issues. High-level
Government of Vietnam (GVN) and USG participation resulted in broad
and largely positive press coverage. End Summary.

Delegations
-----------

2. (U) The GVN hosted the third annual Joint Advisory Committee
(JAC) on Agent Orange/dioxin in Hanoi from September 8-11 (Ref A).
Reflecting the importance of the meeting, Vietnamese Minister of
Natural Resources and Environment Pham Khoi Nguyen and Vice Minister
Tran Hong Ha provided opening remarks. The U.S. delegation, led by
EPA Deputy Assistant Administrator Kevin Teichman, included
representatives from the Departments of State, Defense and Health
and Human Services, along with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention and USAID. Scot Marciel, U.S. Ambassador to ASEAN,
attended one session. The Vietnamese delegation, led by Dr. Le Ke
Son, the Director General of Office 33 (the GVN body responsible for
coordinating Agent Orange/dioxin policy), included representatives
from the Ministries of Natural Resources and Environment, Foreign
Affairs, Defense, and Health, along with experts from the Vietnam
Academy of Science and Technology.

Coordinating with Other Donors
------------------------------

3. (U) Recognizing the increasingly multilateral approach to Agent
Orange/dioxin issues (Refs B and C), the JAC members invited the
participation of several key donors with ongoing environmental
remediation or health projects, including UNDP, UNICEF, the Ford
Foundation, and the Czech Republic. These donors joined in several
JAC sessions to discuss how to better integrate their efforts with
continuing GVN responses and planned USAID projects. Following the
JAC, the U.S. Embassy hosted a briefing for representatives of over
15 bilateral donors and international organizations to review the
JAC, seek input for joint projects, and encourage participants to
join the broad coalition on Agent Orange/dioxin and broader
environmental and public health issues. Encouraged by details of
U.S. engagement and GVN cooperation, the gathering agreed to meet
regularly to coordinate efforts.

Focusing on Practical Advice
----------------------------

4. (U) This year's JAC tried to move away from set presentations to
allow more interactive dialogue focused on practical
recommendations. In particular, U.S. EPA representatives began
detailed discussions with their counterparts from the Ministry of
Defense (MOD) on specific calculations of soil volumes for
remediation, evaluation of MOD bioremediation efforts at the Bien
Hoa airbase, and suggestions for how to improve those remediation
efforts. To best ensure prompt action, JAC members agreed that
overall remediation efforts should be broken down into component
parts to allow remediators to begin work on the easiest tasks first.
U.S. JAC members stated their willingness to review Vietnamese
studies of the possible health impacts of exposure to dioxin, which
continue to suffer from methodological weaknesses.

Ability to Help Shape GVN Remediation Strategies

HANOI 00001088 002 OF 003


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

5. (SBU) The GVN explicitly laid out its remediation targets for the
three priority airbases, seeking immediate assistance for efforts at
Danang where it plans to complete a runway extension through
currently contaminated areas by 2010 as part of airport renovation.
At Phu Cat, the GVN envisioned support from the Czech Republic,
while MOD would maintain tight control over ongoing remediation
efforts at Bien Hoa, which, unlike Danang and Phu Cat, remains an
active military base. UNDP and Office 33 are finalizing an overall
remediation plan, which they will submit to the JAC for review and
comment. Similarly, MOD has begun drafting its own remediation
strategy, which it will provide to the JAC prior to submission to
the Prime Minister for final approval.

Visit to Bien Hoa
-----------------

6. (SBU) The U.S. JAC delegation traveled to Bien Hoa to meet with
the Chair of the Dong Nai Province People's Committee, review
possible pathways for dioxin contamination in areas surrounding the
airbase, and begin a dialogue with provincial environmental and
health officials. Despite providing detailed information regarding
ongoing remediation efforts, MOD refused permission to the U.S. JAC
members to enter the airbase. In the past, MOD allowed
representatives from UNDP and a Canadian environmental consulting
company to access the base to take samples.

JAC Recommendations
-------------------

7. (SBU) JAC recommendations focused on areas where members hope to
remain active throughout the year (Note: detailed recommendations
are included in the minutes, which will be sent separately). The
two delegations agreed to set up environmental remediation and
health taskforces to review specific projects, create priorities,
and estimate budgets (Note: The Ford Foundation will provide funding
to the GVN to facilitate taskforce participation). For example, in
addition to the advice detailed in paragraph 4 above, the
environmental taskforce will work to flesh out a detailed "roadmap"
for remediation efforts at the Danang airbase. Additionally, JAC
members advised USAID on how to best implement remaining funds from
the USD 3 million appropriated by Congress in 2007.

Press coverage
--------------

8. (U) The JAC received significant television and print media
coverage, particularly during the first session when dozens of media
representatives were allowed to listen to presentations by Minister
Nguyen, the JAC co-chairs, and Ambassador Michalak. Reflecting a
continued shift in Agent Orange/dioxin reporting (ref D), most
stories provided factual accounts of the proceedings, prominently
noting initial U.S. implementation of the USD 3 million at Danang
and highlighting U.S.-Vietnamese cooperation. Some reports stated
that the U.S. should supplement the USD 3 million with additional
funding, while a few articles quoted Minister Nguyen's
scientifically-unfounded assertion that millions of children and
grandchildren born to those exposed to Agent Orange suffer
disabilities linked to that exposure.

Comment
-------

9. (SBU) As the JAC becomes more "hands on," its value will
increase. While it will continue to advise policymakers how to
spend remediation and health funds, JAC members also have begun to
advise the GVN how to save money in its remediation efforts,
lowering total costs and hopefully easing pressure on U.S. funding.
The two taskforces will provide the framework for greater input in
environmental and health decision making. JAC members will play an
important role in reviewing possible cooperative efforts. At the
same time, an increasingly invigorated JAC is only one piece of the
puzzle and we need to craft a comprehensive strategy for how to
"normalize" Agent Orange/dioxin as one of many areas of development

HANOI 00001088 003 OF 003


assistance, build a multilateral coalition to address specific
environmental and health projects, and use active public diplomacy
to desensitize the subject among the Vietnamese population.

MICHALAK

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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