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Cablegate: Vietnam and the Spratlys: Strong Talk,

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


2002HANOI01379 - UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ8969

PAGE 01 HANOI 01379 01 OF 02 300923Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AIT-03 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DOTE-00 DS-00
EB-00 FAAE-00 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00
VCE-00 NSAE-00 PM-00 TEST-00 EPAE-00 ECA-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 DRL-02 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /005W
------------------B5946F 300923Z /38
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6617
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AIT TAIPEI 0692
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHDC
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
SECDEF WASHDC//ISA/ABLAGG//

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001379

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, EAP/RSP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV MARR PINR VM CVR ASEAN
SUBJECT: VIETNAM AND THE SPRATLYS: STRONG TALK,
-- BUT PLAYING IT SAFE

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 01379 01 OF 02 300923Z
REF: HANOI 431

1. (U) SUMMARY. GVN OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO TAKE A FIRM
LINE CONCERNING VIETNAM'S SOVEREIGNTY CLAIMS OVER THE
SPRATLY ISLANDS. PROVINCIAL CLAIMS CONCERNING CIVILIAN
INFRASTRUCTURE IN THE SPRATLYS APPEAR EXAGGERATED. VIETNAM
CONTINUES TO SUPPORT A SOUTH CHINA SEA CODE OF CONDUCT
(REFTEL), AN IMPORTANT CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURE.
DISCUSSIONS AT THE NATIONAL AND PROVINCIAL LEVEL INDICATE
STRONG SUPPORT FOR MAINTAINING THE STATUS QUO AND SETTLING
OUTSTANDING ISSUES BY "PEACEFUL MEANS." END SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- -----
THE VIEW FROM KHANH HOA--OTHER CLAIMS NOT RELEVANT
--------------------------------------------- -----

2. (U) KHANH HOA PROVINCE, LOCATED ALONG VIETNAM'S SOUTH
CENTRAL COAST, HAS ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE
SPRATLY CHAIN, KNOWN IN VIETNAMESE AS THE QUAN DAO TRUONG
SA. THE ISLANDS FORM A DISTRICT WITHIN THE PROVINCE, AND
ARE LOCATED ABOUT 200 NAUTICAL MILES FROM THE COAST.
ACCORDING TO TRAN AN KHANH, CHIEF OF THE EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF
THE KHANH HOA PROVINCIAL PEOPLE'S COMMITTEE, "IT IS
IRRELEVANT WHICH COUNTRIES MAKE CLAIMS-THE SPRATLYS ARE PART
OF VIETNAM AND ALWAYS WILL BE." KHANH ADMITTED THAT MOST OF
THE VIETNAMESE POPULATION IN THE SPRATLYS CONSISTS OF
MILITARY FORCES, WHILE CLAIMING THAT THERE IS A
"SIGNIFICANT" CIVILIAN POPULATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE,
INCLUDING SCHOOLS, BANKS, AND POST OFFICES. KHANH WAS
UNABLE TO SAY HOW MANY CIVILIANS LIVE THERE, NOR COULD HE
PROVIDE DETAILS CONCERNING THE CIVILIAN INFRASTRUCTURE. HE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 01379 01 OF 02 300923Z
ADDED THAT ONLY DISTRICT OFFICIALS WOULD HAVE "MORE
INFORMATION." HOWEVER, WHEN POLOFFS REQUESTED TO MEET WITH
DISTRICT OFFICIALS, KHANH SAID THIS WAS "IMPOSSIBLE" BECAUSE
THEY WERE "TOO BUSY." NEWSPAPER REPORTING ABOUT MAY 19
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS IN THE SPRATLY DISTRICT
UNIFORMLY SHOWED MILITARY TROOPS GETTING AND CASTING
BALLOTS; THEY WERE ALLOWED TO START VOTING EARLY DUE TO THE
DISTANCES INVOLVED.

---------------------------------------------
THE VIEW FROM HANOI - STRONG WORDS, BUT . . .
---------------------------------------------

3. (U) ACCORDING TO NGUYEN THI THAN HA, SENIOR EXPERT IN
THE MFA'S DEPARTMENT OF INTERNATIONAL LAW AND TREATIES
DEPARTMENT, THE "HISTORICAL AND LEGAL FRAMEWORK CLEARLY
PROVES VIETNAM'S CLAIM." SHE PROVIDED A LONG AND HIGHLY
LEGALISTIC 1988 MFA ARTICLE DELINEATING VIETNAM'S CLAIM,
ADDING THAT, "OUR POSITION HAS NOT CHANGED SINCE THIS
ARTICLE -- THE SPRATLYS ARE VIETNAM." MFA PUBLIC
STATEMENTS HAVE CONSISTENTLY REITERATED THAT "VIETNAM
AFFIRMS ITS INDISPUTABLE SOVEREIGNTY OVER TRUONG SA
(SPRATLYS)." DR. NGUYEN QUANG NGOC, VIETNAM HANOI NATIONAL
UNIVERSITY'S DEAN OF HISTORY, SAID SEPARATELY THAT, WHILE
VIETNAM UNDERSTANDS OTHER CLAIMS EXIST TO THE SPRATLYS,
"THERE IS NO DOUBT OUR CLAIM IS HISTORICALLY JUSTIFIED."
SIMILARLY, LE QUY QUYNH, DEPUTY CHIEF OF THE SOUTHEAST ASIA
AFFAIRS DIVISION OF THE GVN'S BORDER COMMISSION, SAID
VIETNAM'S RIGHTS TO THE SPRATLYS "CANNOT BE DISPUTED,
ALTHOUGH THE PROBLEM IS COMPLEX," HE ADMITTED.

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 01379 01 OF 02 300923Z
--------------------------------
. . .LET'S BE CAREFUL OUT THERE
--------------------------------

4. (U) MFA CHINA DESK DIRECTOR TRAN DUY HAI TOLD POLOFF
THAT, DURING RECENT HIGH LEVEL VISITS BETWEEN VIETNAM AND
THE PRC, LEADERS HAVE RAISED THE SPRATLYS, BUT ALWAYS
NOWADAYS WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF PLEDGING TO "MAINTAIN THE
STATUS QUO, REFRAIN FROM FURTHER COMPLICATIONS, AND SETTLE
THE DISPUTE THROUGH PEACEFUL MEANS." HE POINTED TO THE
JOINT COMMUNIQU ISSUED AFTER PRC PRESIDENT JIANG ZEMIN'S
VISIT TO VIETNAM LAST FEBRUARY, WHEREBY BOTH SIDES "PLEDGED
TO EXERT FURTHER EFFORTS TO MAINTAIN PEACE AND STABILITY IN
THE EAST (SOUTH CHINA) SEA." AN MFA STATEMENT FOLLOWING
VIETNAM PRESIDENT TRAN DUC LUONG'S VISIT TO THE PRC IN
DECEMBER 2000 ALSO REITERATED THE COMMITMENT TO "SEEK AN
EVERLASTING SOLUTION ACCEPTABLE TO BOTH SIDES THROUGH
PEACEFUL NEGOTIATIONS." (NOTE: THESE STATEMENTS ARE ALL
SUPPORTIVE OF THE 1995 VIETNAM-PRC AGREEMENT TO ADDRESS THE
THREE AREAS OF TERRITORIAL DISPUTE SEQUENTIALLY. END NOTE)
ANOTHER MFA STATEMENT IN MAY 2001 RESTATED VIETNAM'S

UNCLASSIFIED

UNCLASSIFIED PTQ8973

PAGE 01 HANOI 01379 02 OF 02 300923Z
ACTION EAP-00

INFO LOG-00 NP-00 AIT-03 ACQ-00 CIAE-00 DOTE-00 DS-00
EB-00 FAAE-00 FBIE-00 UTED-00 VC-00 TEDE-00 INR-00
VCE-00 NSAE-00 PM-00 TEST-00 EPAE-00 ECA-00 PMB-00
DSCC-00 DRL-02 NFAT-00 SAS-00 /005W
------------------B59480 300923Z /38
R 300910Z MAY 02
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6618
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AIT TAIPEI 0693
ASEAN COLLECTIVE
NSC WASHDC
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
SECDEF WASHDC//ISA/ABLAGG//

UNCLAS SECTION 02 OF 02 HANOI 001379

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV, EAP/RSP

UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 02 HANOI 01379 02 OF 02 300923Z
SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE SPRATLYS, BUT STRESSED THAT "VIETNAM
INTENDS TO SOLVE ALL DISPUTES THROUGH PEACEFUL NEGOTIATIONS
BASED ON RESPECT FOR INTERNATIONAL LAWS, PARTICULARLY THE
1982 UN CONVENTION ON THE LAW OF THE SEA AND THE 1992 MANILA
DECLARATION ON THE EAST SEA."

5. (U) VIETNAM ALSO REMAINS COMMITTED TO THE LONG-
NEGOTIATED CODE OF CONDUCT FOR THE SOUTH CHINA SEA,
ACCORDING TO PHAM CAO PHONG, DIRECTOR OF NORTHEAST ASIA
STUDIES OF THE MFA'S INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
(IIR), WHO EMPHASIZED THAT VIETNAM IS "FULLY COMMITTED TO
THE ASEAN INITIATIVE" (SEPTEL).

6. (SBU) ONE PHILIPPINE EMBOFF DESCRIBED TO POLOFF HOW,
FOLLOWING SOME VIOLENT CLASHES IN THE MID-1990S BETWEEN
PHILIPPINE AND VIETNAMESE NAVAL FORCES, MILITARY COMMANDERS
HAD MET AND DEVELOPED THEIR OWN MILITARY-TO-MILITARY "CODE
OF CONDUCT" TO PREVENT FUTURE CLASHES. THE EMBOFF ADDED
THAT THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN THE LEAD IN
DEVELOPING THE DRAFT CODE OF CONDUCT (NOW IN ITS NINTH
ITERATION) AND HOPES IT CAN BE ADOPTED "THIS SUMMER IN
BRUNEI." ACCORDING TO MALAYSIAN EMBASSY EMBOFFS, MALAYSIA
IS ENGAGED IN SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND TOURISM IN THE FIVE
ISLANDS IT CLAIMS. SOLDIERS ARE ALSO STATIONED "TO PROVIDE
PROTECTION," THEY CLAIMED. THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT
"STRONGLY SUPPORTS" THE CODE OF CONDUCT AND AGREES THE
DISPUTE SHOULD BE SETTLED BY "PEACEFUL MEANS," THE EMBOFFS
ADDED. (NOTE: MFA/ASEAN DEPARTMENT DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL
PHAM HUU CHI TOLD POLOFFS ON MAY 30 THAT MALAYSIA DOES NOT
WANT THE ISLANDS IT CLAIMS CONSIDERED WITHIN THE CODE OF
CONDUCT, WHICH IT HAS SO FAR INSISTED BE LIMITED TO THE
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 03 HANOI 01379 02 OF 02 300923Z
SPRATLY GROUP, HE OBSERVED. END NOTE)

7. (SBU) ACCORDING TO A PRC EMBOFF, THERE IS "NO DOUBT"
CONCERNING PRC SOVEREIGNTY OVER THE ENTIRE SOUTH CHINA SEA
AREA; THIS IS A "HISTORICAL FACT," THE EMBOFF EMPHASIZED.
THE EMBOFF NOTED THAT THE PRC NONETHELESS AGREES WITH
VIETNAM AND OTHER ASEAN NATIONS THAT THE DISPUTE "SHOULD BE
SOLVED PEACEFULLY." THE PROPOSED CODE OF CONDUCT IS AN
"IMPORTANT CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURE THAT WILL CONTRIBUTE
TO REGIONAL STABILITY," THE EMBOFF OPINED. SEPARATELY, AN
OFFICIAL AT THE TAIPEI ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL OFFICE (TECO)
IN HANOI NOTED THAT TAIWAN CONSIDERS ITS CLAIM TO THE ENTIRE
ARCHIPELAGO "VALID," BUT IS ALSO COMMITTED TO SOLVING THE
PROBLEM "PEACEFULLY." THE OFFICIAL SAID HE "EXPECTED"
TAIWAN WOULD RESPECT THE CODE OF CONDUCT WHEN/IF IT IS
ADOPTED.

---------------------------
WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?
---------------------------

8. (U) NGUYEN HUY QUY, DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE OF CHINA
STUDIES, CALLED THE CODE OF CONDUCT A "STEP IN THE RIGHT
DIRECTION," WHILE NOTING THAT IT CAN ONLY BE CONSIDERED A
"CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURE" AND DOES NOT MEAN THE DISPUTE
IS ANY CLOSER TO RESOLUTION. HE OBSERVED THAT, SINCE THE
DISPUTE INVOLVES SEVERAL COUNTRIES WITH COMPETING CLAIMS,
ANY POTENTIAL SOLUTION REMAINS "VERY COMPLEX." HANOI
UNIVERSITY'S NGOC COMMENTED SEPARATELY THAT THE BASIC
PROBLEM IS THAT "NO PARTY HAS AN INCENTIVE TO SETTLE THE
DISPUTE BECAUSE THERE ARE SO MANY COMPETING CLAIMS." AS A
UNCLASSIFIED

PAGE 04 HANOI 01379 02 OF 02 300923Z
RESULT, HE OPINED, "I DO NOT EXPECT TO SEE THE PROBLEM
RESOLVED IN MY LIFETIME." THE IIR'S PHONG SAID THAT WHILE
ALL PARTIES "ARE ANXIOUS TO MAINTAIN THE STATUS QUO AND
PROMOTE REGIONAL STABILITY, NONE IS WILLING TO COMPROMISE ON
TERRITORIAL CLAIMS," THUS MAKING A PERMANENT AGREEMENT
"UNLIKELY."

-------
COMMENT
-------

9. (U) VIETNAM'S SUPPORT FOR THE CODE OF CONDUCT IS AN
IMPORTANT COMPONENT OF ITS DECADE-LONG STRATEGY OF GETTING
ALONG WITH ITS NEIGHBORS AND MAKING REGIONAL PEACE AND
STABILITY A TOP NATIONAL PRIORITY. WE EXPECT TO SEE
CONTINUED RESTRAINT BY THE VIETNAMESE MILITARY TO AVOID NEW
PROVOCATIVE STEPS, BUT ALSO DOUBT THAT THE GVN WOULD
RENOUNCE OR MODIFY ITS TERRITORIAL CLAIMS IN THE FORESEEABLE
FUTURE.
PORTER

UNCLASSIFIED

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