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Cablegate: Tfiz01: Vietnam Update March 21

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

UNCLAS HANOI 000702

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PINS CASC IZ VM
SUBJECT: TFIZ01: VIETNAM UPDATE MARCH 21

REF: A. HANOI 0684 B. HANOI 0676 C. HANOI 0651

1. (U) Vietnamese television, radio, and newspapers on
March 20 and March 21 highlighted international protests
against military action in Iraq, including another slew of
mass pro-peace "meetings" throughout Vietnam that were
described as involving at least tens of thousands of
Vietnamese citizens in various locations. However, coverage
was virtually non-existent of the very small student
protests across the street from the Chancery on March 19 and
March 20. (Comment: Failure to publicize these protests
may indicate that they did not have any official sanction
and that the GVN does not want to encourage any spontaneous
demonstrations on this or other issues. End comment)

2. (U) Media also emphasized the tough remarks made by the
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman on May 20, calling the military
action a "gross violation of the fundamental principles of
international law" that was an "extremely dangerous
precedent," condemning the hostilities, and "strongly"
demanding an "immediate" end. Unusually, the language
referred to US and UK "power holders" (nha cam quyen) rather
than "authorities" (chinh quyen) or "governments" (chinh
phu), a throw-back to Cold War-era language that connotes an
illegitimate regime. (An MFA official assured Pol/C on
March 21, however, that no disrespect or negative
connotation was intended, merely an effort to point to a few
decision-makers, rather than the entire Administration.)
Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien, the only other senior
official quoted in the press, similarly referred to military
action as a "bad precedent" that will "harm peace, security,
and all aspects of political and economic life the world
over." A Voice of Vietnam commentary on March 20 predicted
that "cruelty and destruction" in this war could kill as
many as four million people, and claimed that the US purpose
was first to seize control of Iraq's oil fields and
eventually become "master of the world."

3. (U) The MFA spokeswoman nonetheless pledged on March 20
that Vietnam had taken "all necessary measures to ensure the
security of our people, foreign diplomatic facilities and
foreigners in Vietnam" and promised that Vietnam would
remain a "truly safe destination." She also confirmed that
no Vietnamese remained in Iraq, with about 20 officials,
families, students, and workers having already departed.

4. (U) Security coverage at the Chancery and Rose Garden
annex remained good. Police responded quickly to another
student protest (apparently, a mix of high school and
university age) at the Chancery in mid-afternoon on March
20. This one was louder than previous ones. At one point,
a brick was thrown and hit the front of the Embassy, but
there were no other negative aspects. An expected
demonstration at the Australian Embassy apparently did not
take place.

5. (U) Similar to cancellations of meetings with GVN and
CPV officials on March 20 (ref a), a senior official of the
Office of Government unexpectedly canceled a March 21
meeting with Econ/C, claiming a sudden meeting on Iraq
chaired by the Prime Minister. His office later declined to
reschedule during the week of March 24. However, the MFA
Americas Department deputy director met with Pol/C on March
21 at our request to deliver a demarche on Iraq (ref a and
septel).

6. (U) CONS issued Department-approved warden message on
March 20. No Amcits have called to express concern for
their safety or offer opinions on the war, although numerous
Vietnamese have asked whether the Consular Section would
continue to issue visas. (Yes.) There has been a marked
increase in Amcit registrations, but it is not possible to
determine whether this was due to the worldwide caution or
to a different series of warden messages on the SARS
outbreak.
BURGHARDT

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