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Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Calls in Hcmc

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

150903Z Jun 01

2001HOCHI00735 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ8892

PAGE 01 HO CHI 00735 01 OF 03 150909Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AID-00 ACQ-00 CEA-01 CIAE-00 SMEC-00
CTME-00 DOEE-00 ITCE-00 SRPP-00 DS-00 EB-00 EXME-00
E-00 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00 FRB-00 H-01 TEDE-00
INR-00 IO-00 ITC-01 L-00 VCE-00 AC-01 NSAE-00
OES-01 OIC-02 OMB-01 OPIC-01 CAEX-01 PA-00 PM-00
PRS-00 ACE-00 P-00 SP-00 IRM-00 SSO-00 STR-00
TEST-00 USIE-00 PMB-00 DSCC-00 PRM-01 DRL-02 G-00
NFAT-00 SAS-00 /013W
------------------F91F47 150909Z /38
FM AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 5185
INFO AMEMBASSY HANOI
AMEMBASSY TOKYO
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA
AMCONSUL HONG KONG
USMISSION GENEVA
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
JICPAC HONOLULU HI
SECDEF WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
NSC WASHDC
DEPTTREAS WASHDC
USDOC WASHDC

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HO CHI 00735 01 OF 03 150909Z

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HO CHI MINH CITY 000735

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV AND EAP/PD/JMARTIN
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR DRL/IRF
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR USTR
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR OPIC, TDA, AND EXIMBANK
CINCPAC FOR FPA
SECDEF FOR ISA/EA/LSTERN
DEPTTREAS FOR OASIA
USDOC FOR 4431/MAC/AP/OKSA/HPPHO

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL ETRD KIRF VM
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S FAREWELL CALLS IN HCMC


1. SUMMARY: AMBASSADOR PETERSON PAID FAREWELL CALLS IN
HCMC ON JUNE 11 AT THE CITY'S EXTERNAL RELATIONS
OFFICE, AT THE HCMC COMMUNIST PARTY HEADQUARTERS, AND
AT THE HCMC PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE. THE AMBASSADOR
REVIEWED THE PROGRESS MADE IN THE BILATERAL
RELATIONSHIP OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS, NOTING THAT
RATIFICATION OF THE BILATERAL TRADE AGREEMENT (BTA),
WHICH IS NOW BEFORE THE U.S. CONGRESS, WOULD MARK THE
FINAL STEP IN THE NORMALIZATION PROCESS. REMARKING ON
THE RISE IN THE STANDARD OF LIVING IN HCMC OVER THE
PAST FEW YEARS, THE AMBASSADOR SAID HE BELIEVED
IMPROVED BILATERAL RELATIONS HAVE HAD A SOCIAL AS WELL
AS AN ECONOMIC IMPACT ON THE VIETNAMESE PEOPLE. HE
SAID THE USG WOULD LIKE TO TAKE A COOPERATIVE RATHER
THAN CONFRONTATIONAL APPROACH TO THE OBJECTIVE OF
IMPROVING CONDITIONS FOR HUMAN RIGHTS. HE STATED USG
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00735 01 OF 03 150909Z
OBJECTIONS TO THE RECENT ARRESTS OF RELIGIOUS FIGURES
IN VIETNAM. WHILE ACKNOWLEDGING THAT ALLOWING GREATER
POLITICAL AND SOCIAL FREEDOMS CARRIES THE RISK OF LESS
STABILITY, HE STATED EMPHATICALLY THAT THE RISKS ARE
FAR OUTWEIGHED BY THE UNLEASHING OF SOCIAL CREATIVITY
AND PRODUCTIVITY. ALTHOUGH HIS VIETNAMESE
INTERLOCUTORS DEFENDED THEIR HANDLING OF "SUBVERSIVES"
AND EXPLAINED THEIR OUTLOOK REGARDING A FREE SOCIETY
VERSUS A STABLE SOCIETY, THEY APPEARED TO BE SINCERE IN
THEIR COMMENTS. THEY THANKED THE AMBASSADOR FOR HIS
EFFORTS IN NORMALIZING RELATIONS, EXPRESSED HOPE FOR
EARLY RATIFICATION OF THE BTA, AND SAID THEY LOOKED
FORWARD TO CONTINUING TO BUILD ON THE FOUNDATION OF
TRUST AND FRIENDSHIP ESTABLISHED BETWEEN THE TWO
COUNTRIES THUS FAR. END SUMMARY.

CALL AT EXTERNAL RELATION OFFICE
--------------------------------

2. AT THE HCMC EXTERNAL RELATIONS OFFICE (THE HCMC
BRANCH OF THE FOREIGN MINISTRY), AMBASSADOR PETERSON
PAID A FAREWELL CALL ON DIRECTOR LE QUOC HUNG. HUNG
WAS NAMED DIRECTOR IN APRIL. PREVIOUSLY, HE WAS ONE OF
THREE DEPUTY DIRECTORS AND WAS THE PERSON IN CHARGE OF
COORDINATING THE HCMC PORTION OF PRESIDENT CLINTON'S
VISIT TO HCMC IN NOVEMBER. AMBASSADOR THANKED HUNG FOR
THE SUPPORT OF HIS OFFICE OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS,
PARTICULARLY FOR ASSISTANCE ON VIP VISITS, AND
ESPECIALLY THAT OF PRESIDENT CLINTON.

3. OVER THE PAST FOUR YEARS, THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00735 01 OF 03 150909Z
HAS MATURED, THE AMBASSADOR SAID, AND HAS BECOME MORE
COMPLEX. THE TWO COUNTRIES WILL NOT ALWAYS AGREE ON
EVERY ISSUE, SO IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONTINUE TO BUILD ON
THE LEVEL OF TRUST THAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED THUS FAR. WE
HAVE REACHED A POINT WHERE WE CAN DISAGREE ON SOME
THINGS WHILE CONTINUING TO MOVE AHEAD ON OTHERS.

4. THE AMBASSADOR STRESSED THE IMPORTANCE OF ALLOWING
U.S. DIPLOMATS TO TRAVEL AND MEET PEOPLE FREELY. U.S.
MISSION OFFICERS CAN BE COUNTED ON TO REPORT
OBJECTIVELY, AND IN THIS WAY CAN BE ALLIES IN
DISPELLING EXAGGERATIONS AND RUMORS. WE WILL REPORT ON
THINGS WE DO NOT AGREE ON, SUCH AS THE DETENTION OF
INDIVIDUALS FOR PEACEFULLY EXPRESSING THEIR OPINIONS,
BUT WE WILL ALSO REPORT ON THE POSITIVE THINGS VIETNAM
IS DOING.

5. DIRECTOR HUNG AGREED THAT THE TWO COUNTRIES HAVE
BUILT A FOUNDATION OF TRUST IN THE FEW YEARS SINCE
DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WERE ESTABLISHED. HE ADDED,
HOWEVER, THAT IN SOME PLACES AT CERTAIN LEVELS OF
GOVERNMENT, DISTRUST REMAINS - THE LINGERING RESULTS OF
A LONG AND PAINFUL WAR. IT WILL TAKE TIME, HE SAID,
AND EFFORT TO KEEP THE RELATIONSHIP MOVING FORWARD.
BECAUSE THE BTA WOULD BE A MAJOR STEP FORWARD, HE HOPED
THE U.S. CONGRESS WOULD RATIFY THE BTA QUICKLY.

6. IN REPLY TO AMBASSADOR PETERSON'S REMARK THAT
AMERICAN PEOPLE FEEL STRONGLY ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS DUE TO
THEIR HISTORY AS A NATION FOUNDED BY REFUGEES WHO HAD
FLED INTOLERANCE, HUNG SAID HE UNDERSTOOD THE AMERICAN
PERSPECTIVE. BUT HE SAID THE VIETNAMESE HISTORY OF
4000 YEARS OF FIGHTING OFF EXTERNAL INVADERS HAS MADE
ITS MARK ON THE VIETNAMESE PSYCHE. VIETNAMESE PEOPLE
VALUE INDEPENDENCE AND FREEDOM FROM OUTSIDE
INTERFERENCE ABOVE ALL ELSE. INDIVIDUAL FREEDOMS ARE
ALSO HIGHLY VALUED, BUT SHOULD BE LIMITED TO BALANCE
THE EQUALLY VALUED CONCEPTS OF STABILITY AND SECURITY.
HE NOTED THAT AT PRESENT, VIETNAM IS THE MOST
POLITICALLY STABLE NATION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. AND ITS
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HO CHI 00735 02 OF 03 150909Z
STABILITY IS ALLOWING VIETNAM TO DEVELOP ITS ECONOMY
AND IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF LIVING FOR ITS PEOPLE.

7. AMBASSADOR PETERSON AGREED THAT FREEDOM SHOULD BE
LIMITED TO ACTIVITY WITHIN THE RULE OF LAW, BUT HE
QUESTIONED HOW ALLOWING ONE INDIVIDUAL, SUCH AS
BUDDHIST THICH HUYEN QUANG, TO FREELY CHOOSE HIS PLACE
OF RESIDENCE COULD HAVE ANY EFFECT ON VIETNAM'S
SECURITY. ALLOWING GREATER FREEDOM TO EXPRESS OPINIONS
DOES CARRY SOME RISKS, THE AMBASSADOR SAID, BUT THOSE
ARE OUTWEIGHED BY FAR BY THE UNLEASHING OF SOCIETY'S
POTENTIAL FOR CREATIVITY AND PRODUCTIVITY.

CALL AT HCMC COMMUNIST PARTY HEADQUARTERS
-----------------------------------------

8. AMBASSADOR PETERSON ALSO MET WITH NGUYEN MINH TRIET,
SECRETARY OF THE HCMC PARTY COMMITTEE AND FOURTH-

SIPDIS
RANKING MEMBERS OF VIETNAM'S POLITBURO. (TRIET IS
RUMORED TO BE THE FRONT-RUNNER TO SUCCEED PHAN VAN KHAI
AS PRIME MINISTER WHENEVER KHAI STEPS DOWN.) THE
AMBASSADOR THANKED TRIET FOR VIETNAM'S COOPERATION
DURING THE FIRST YEARS OF NORMALIZATION. HE DREW
PARTICULAR ATTENTION TO VIETNAM'S COOPERATION IN
LOCATING AMERICAN MIA'S, WHICH WAS THE KEY TO
ESTABLISHING DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS. HE EXPRESSED THE
USG DESIRE TO ASSIST VIETNAM IN LOCATING ITS OWN MIAS.

9. THE AMBASSADOR TOLD TRIET THAT IT IS NORMAL FOR TWO
COUNTRIES TO HAVE DIFFERENCES - IT IS THE MARK OF A
MATURING RELATIONSHIP. HE SAID THE U.S. DIPLOMATIC
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00735 02 OF 03 150909Z
MISSION HAS A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF VIETNAM, PERHAPS
BETTER THAN AT ANY TIME IN THE PAST. THIS WAS DUE TO
MISSION STAFF BEING ABLE TO TRAVEL AND MEET PEOPLE
FREELY. HE NOTED THAT RECENT RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL TO
THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS HINDERED THE MISSION'S ABILITY TO
UNDERSTAND THE TRUE PICTURE OF WHAT IS GOING ON THERE.
HE WISHED TO SEE THOSE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS LIFTED
QUICKLY. HE ALSO SAID THE GOVERNMENT OF VIETNAM OUGHT
TO ALLOW UBCV BUDDHIST PATRIARCH THICH HUYEN QUANG TO
RETURN TO HIS FORMER RESIDENCE IN HCMC, AND SUGGESTED
THE GVN MIGHT FIND IT EASIER TO DO THIS ON ITS OWN
INITIATIVE RATHER THAN WAITING FOR INTERNATIONAL
PRESSURE ON THE ISSUE TO BUILD.

10. TRIET SAID THAT HE WANTED THE U.S. MISSION AND
OTHER OBSERVERS TO VISIT THE HIGHLANDS TO BE ABLE TO
UNDERSTAND THE TRUE CIRCUMSTANCES THERE. HE SAID
GENERALLY VIETNAM PLACES NO RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL
WITHIN THE COUNTRY, BUT BECAUSE OF SAFETY CONCERNS,
THERE ARE TEMPORARY RESTRICTIONS ON TRAVEL TO SOME
PLACES IN THE HIGHLANDS. TRIET ALSO SAID VIETNAM
RESPECTS RELIGIOUS ACTIVITIES, BUT RELIGIOUS PERSONS,
LIKE OTHER CITIZENS, MUST ABIDE BY THE LAWS OF THE
COUNTRY. HE SAID SOME INDIVIDUALS, BOTH WITHIN AND
OUTSIDE THE COUNTRY, HAVE USED RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AS A
PRETEXT FOR COMMITTING SUBVERSIVE ACTS. TRIET SAID HE
REMEMBERED THAT IN HIS YOUTH (UNDER THE SOUTH
VIETNAMESE REGIME), HE AND OTHER STUDENTS WERE NOT
ALLOWED FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, SO HE UNDERSTOOD THE
IMPORTANCE OF AN OPEN, DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY.

11. THE AMBASSADOR NOTED THAT SEEN OVER THE LONG TERM,
VIETNAM HAS MADE SIGNIFICANT IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN
RIGHTS. THE CHURCHES ARE FULL; THERE IS MORE OPENNESS
AND MORE TOLERANCE OF CRITICISM. BUT RASH RESPONSES TO
INDIVIDUALS WHO CHALLENGE THE GOVERNMENT ARE WHAT GRAB
THE HEADLINES. THE USG WOULD LIKE TO COOPERATE WITH
VIETNAM IN CREATING CONDITIONS FOR FURTHER IMPROVEMENTS
IN HUMAN RIGHTS, AS WE HAVE IN OTHER AREAS. THE BTA,
FOR EXAMPLE, WILL HAVE A POSITIVE IMPACT ON OUR TWO
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PAGE 03 HO CHI 00735 03 OF 03 150910Z
COUNTRIES FOR GENERATIONS. THE USG HAS ALSO
ESTABLISHED A NEW SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM FOR VIETNAM THAT
COULD HELP PROVIDE HIGHER EDUCATION TO UP TO 200
STUDENTS IN THE NEXT YEAR.

12. TRIET AGREED WITH THE AMBASSADOR THAT THE TWO
COUNTRIES HAVE BUILT UP A FOUNDATION OF FRIENDSHIP AND
TRUST IN THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF NORMALIZATION.
ALTHOUGH SADDENED AT AMBASSADOR PETERSON'S DEPARTURE,
HE LOOKED FORWARD TO WORKING WITH THE NEXT AMBASSADOR
TO DEVELOP AN EVEN GREATER DEGREE OF UNDERSTANDING
BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.

MEETING WITH NEW PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN
--------------------------------------------

13. AMBASSADOR PETERSON CONGRATULATED LE THANH HAI ON
HIS RECENT PROMOTION FROM FIRST VICE-CHAIRMAN TO
CHAIRMAN OF THE HCMC PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE. HE SAID HE
WAS PROUD OF THE WAY THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP HAS
PROGRESSED, AND TOLD HAI THAT THE BTA WAS NOW IN THE
HANDS OF THE U.S. CONGRESS. HE EXPECTED THE CONGRESS
TO RATIFY THE BTA, BUT NOTED THAT IT MAY TAKE UP TO TWO
MONTHS FOR IT TO DO SO. HE SAID HE EXPECTED THE
AGREEMENT TO HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY
AND ON THE QUALITY OF LIFE FOR THE PEOPLE OF HCMC.

14. CHAIRMAN HAI SAID THAT DIFFICULTIES ARE ALWAYS
ENCOUNTERED AT THE BEGINNING OF NEW ENDEAVORS, BUT HE
BELIEVED THE FIRST FEW YEARS OF THE NEW U.S.-VIETNAM
BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP HAS YIELDED REMARKABLY GOOD
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HO CHI 00735 03 OF 03 150910Z
RESULTS. HE HOPED THE U.S. CONGRESS WOULD RATIFY THE
BTA QUICKLY AND WAS CONFIDENT THE GVN WOULD DO THE
SAME. HE SAID THE GOVERNMENT OF HCMC HAD JUST SENT A
PROPOSAL TO THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT OUTLINING SEVERAL
SPECIAL MECHANISMS FOR THE CITY TO ACT MORE ON ITS OWN
WITH REGARD TO ITS ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT. WITH A MORE
STREAMLINED BUREAUCRACY, HE EXPECTED THE CITY TO
ACCELERATE ITS ALREADY HIGH ECONOMIC GROWTH RATE.
THAT, AND RATIFICATION OF THE BTA, SHOULD ATTRACT MORE
AMERICAN AND OTHER FOREIGN INVESTMENT TO THE CITY.

15. THE AMBASSADOR SAID THAT A CORNERSTONE OF THE
BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP WAS THE SUPPORT THE GVN HAD
PROVIDED ON THE MIA ISSUE. HE SAID THE COOPERATION
BETWEEN THE TWO GOVERNMENTS ON THIS ISSUE HAD DEVELOPED
INTO A PARTNERSHIP. HE EXPECTED THE UNITED STATES AND
VIETNAM TO DEVELOP AN ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP JUST AS
VITAL AND HOPED FOR GREATER UNDERSTANDING AND
COOPERATION IN OTHER AREAS AS WELL AS THE RELATIONSHIP
MATURED.

RAY

UNCLASSIFIED

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