Cablegate: Virginia Flag: Upping the Ante

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





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Dinh Bin has called
the Ambassador to a meeting as soon as possible after the
latter's return to Hanoi February 8 to deliver a "strong
protest" about the proposed Bill No. 2829 in the Virginia
House of Delegates regarding the Vietnamese flag. (The bill
calls for the flying of the old South Vietnamese flag in
public instead of the current Socialist Republic of Vietnam
flag.) Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien has already written
to the Secretary about this issue (ref), and National
Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Vu Mao
separately wrote the Speaker of the Virginia House and the
Lieutenant Governor of Virginia. The MFA noted that FM Nien
still awaits a response from the Secretary. Deputy Prime
Minister Vu Khoan is apparently also seized with this issue,
according to one MFA source.

2. (U) In a meeting with Charge on February 6, Assistant
Foreign Minister Nguyen Duc Hung made an emotional plea
against the possible passage of this legislation, noting the
serious consequences for the bilateral relationship and the
top level attention this issue has already received within
the MFA. He was not comforted by Charge's explanation about
State's proactive efforts to weigh in with the House of
Delegates nor by a discussion of the Federal and
constitutional issues involved.

3. (SBU) Comment: This controversy is another example of
the GVN's ability to go overboard on what should be seen
here as an exercise in local democracy in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the GVN is apparently ill-served by its
Embassy in Washington and by its Americas experts at the
MFA. They seem unable to explain the U.S. system to their
superiors or to convince them when and how to weigh in -- or
not -- with the U.S. Federal Government. At a time when we
increasingly thought that both sides had moved beyond
judging the relationship on a single-issue basis, this is an
unhappy development. Clearly, passage of this bill would be
unfortunate, and we remain hopeful that the Virginia
legislators will listen to State's counsel. Clearly also,
should this bill become legislation, our work here will be
complicated by senior-level GVN resentment and suspicion.
DPM Khoan's involvement in this issue may also indicate that
the real opposition comes from within the Communist Party
hierarchy, given his concurrent role as secretary of the CPV


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