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Cablegate: Reviewing Bilateral Relations with Dpm Dung

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) Summary. DPM Dung expressed general satisfaction
with US-Vietnam relations, especially regarding trade and
investment ties, along with the desire to do more to push
the relationship further. He complained about the recent
flag cases, catfish, and the US desire for a textile
agreement, which he claimed the US negotiator had promised
the US would not pursue if Vietnam bought Boeing aircraft.
End Summary.

2. (U) Senior Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
requested a meeting with Ambassador March 10 to exchange
views on how further to strengthen the bilateral
relationship. Septels will cover Iraq, the new Chancery
site, and intelligence sharing.

3. (U) Ambassador noted his efforts over the past 15
months to implement the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade
Agreement, including through a variety of USG-funded
programs, in order to help Vietnam better integrate into the
international community and prepare itself for eventual
accession to the World Trade Organization. He also noted
that he has encouraged non-governmental organizations,
businesses, universities, and other private entities
establish their own links with Vietnam to promote better
ties and understanding. He pointed to the success of the
recent Asia Society corporate conference, the upcoming
opening of the Vietnam exhibition at the American Museum of
Natural History in New York, and the appointment of an
executive director for the Vietnam Educational Foundation as
concrete examples of progress in the latter field.

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4. (U) Ambassador cited three areas where much more needs
to be accomplished to move our relationship to a more truly
normal basis: mil-to-mil ties, law enforcement cooperation,
and intelligence sharing, all of which are among the most
sensitive aspects in our still new relationship. He noted
that the time had come to move our relationship beyond just
economic interests and the need by Vietnam for access to the
US market in order to look for ways to develop a more
comprehensive and strategic relationship.

5. (U) On the military side, the prospect of a visit this
year to the U.S. by Defense Minister Tra, ongoing
discussions about US Navy ship visits, and greater access
granted to our Defense Attache are welcome developments. On
a more negative note, we were disappointed with the last
minute cancellation of a scheduled meeting with the
Vietnamese Defense Ministry's Deputy Chief of General Staff
for intelligence with the visiting Defense Intelligence
Agency's chief of staff. On the law enforcement side,
despite the successful May 2002 conference bringing together
a variety of related agencies from both governments, little
progress has been made. DEA's contacts and information
sharing with the Ministry of Public Security remain very one-
sided, demonstrating a continued reluctance by MPS to share
information even about narcotics.

6. (U) DPM Dung noted that Vietnam had been "encouraged"
with the results of the BTA implementation so far, and
underscored the priority Vietnam attaches to trade and
investment both in the present and in the long-term. He
complimented Ambassador for his personal role in BTA
implementation. He stressed that greater cooperation on the
BTA was not just important for economic reasons, but also as
a way of bringing our two countries and peoples together,
improving mutual understanding, and building a long-standing

7. (U) DPM Dung noted ongoing problems to solve, notably
catfish and textiles; resolution would require that both
sides really listen to each other's viewpoints. He noted
that many Vietnamese felt that recent US decisions on these
issues in particular had been "discriminatory" as well as
bad for bilateral relations, and had especially been
"lacking in goodwill." He urged Ambassador to take personal
responsibility for dealing with these issues. On textiles,
he claimed that then-Deputy USTR Fisher had "promised"
during BTA negotiations that, if Vietnam agreed to buy
Boeing aircraft, the US would not pursue a textile
agreement. Ambassador indicated surprise at such a claim,
but DPM Dung said that Fisher had personally made this
commitment to him in the same room in which we were now
sitting. Ambassador noted that, in any event, textile
agreements were fairly routine, and would have only a short
lifespan given the WTO decision to abolish them in 2005
among members. Once Vietnam acceded, it would have full
access to this US market. He noted that current
uncertainty among US garment buyers could only hurt
Vietnam's longer-term interests. He stressed that purchases
of Boeing aircraft made good sense in their own right. He
cited discriminatory actions on the side of the GVN -- film
censorship, restrictions on certain areas of investment.

8. (U) DPM Dung complained also about recent legislation
in Virginia and California mandating use of the Republic of
Vietnam flag. While saying that he understood that the
State Department's ability to stop such legislation was
constitutionally limited, he stressed that such decisions
have a "harmful" impact on international affairs and
bilateral relations, and the State Department would be more
active in opposing them. Ambassador noted that the bottom
line problem was that the GVN had not been more aggressive
in reaching out to the Viet Kieu community in the United
States. He urged the GVN to take more steps toward
reconciliation, such as sending out SRV Embassy and Congen
staff to meet with them, or even inviting former South
Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Cao Ky to visit. DPM Dung
reacted emotionally, noting that the officials of the former
regime in Saigon had been responsible for bringing in 1
million US troops and resulting in the death of 3 million
Vietnamese; they are "criminals" and would never be welcomed
back. He agreed with Ambassador's comment that, in that
case, reconciliation would require "generations."

9. (U) DPM Dung pledged that Vietnam would continue to try
to improve cooperation and broaden the relationship,
including in areas such as education and training, cultural
exchanges, and dealing with the legacy of the war (Agent
Orange, landmines, MIAs on both sides). He noted that
Defense Minister Tra indeed planned to visit the US, along
with other probable visits by the National Assembly Chairman
and DPM Vu Khoan. He pointed to more joint efforts on
military training. He cited information sharing related to
counter-terrorism. He described Vietnam's commitment to
combating narcotics, and said that only a few minor
obstacles remained related to taxes paid by US staff.
(Note: an apparent reference to long-standing negotiations
over a Counter-narcotics agreement with State's INL. End

10. (U) Ambassador noted that he had yet to meet with
General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, the first time in his 32
years as a diplomat that he had not met the most senior
political figure in a country. DPM Dung said that GS Manh
had agreed to the meeting in principle, that he would
personally again forward the request, and that it was only a
matter of scheduling at this point.

11. (U) Comment: While sometimes a feisty interlocutor,
DPM Dung appeared extremely well-briefed on bilateral ties,
as well as sincerely dedicated to further improvement of
relations. Ambassador will attempt to seek more regular
exchanges such as this one to get over some of our mutual
misunderstandings and to clarify Vietnamese attitudes in the
interests of promoting stronger and deeper ties.

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