Cablegate: Cpv External Relations Chief Meets Ambassador

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

Ref: A. 02 Hanoi 1022 B. Hanoi 1805

1. (U) Summary: The CPV's top foreign affairs official told
the Ambassador he wants better relations and "understanding"
with the U.S., and that Vietnam would continue dialogue with
the U.S. on human rights and "democracy." He also said
Vietnam would participate in the rebuilding of Iraq
"according to its capability and tradition" and that Vietnam
was focused on improving its legal system. End summary.

2. (U) Ambassador, accompanied by poloff, met on September
23 with Nguyen Van Son, Chairman of the Commission for
External Relations of the Central Committee of the Communist
Party of Vietnam. (Ref a reported on Ambassador's
introductory call.) Son was joined by Pham Tien Nhien,
Director of the Commission's Europe and Americas Department
and by Bui The Giang, Director of the Commission's People-to-
People Committee. [Note: Giang will be the senior
representative of the CPV in Vietnam's delegation to the
Conference on U.S.-Vietnam relations in Washington next
week. End note.]

Bilateral relations: good news. . .

3. (U) Ambassador reviewed recent positive developments in
the U.S.-Vietnam relationship, including upcoming high-level
visits, and noted that since strategic decisions in Vietnam
are by definition the decisions of the Party, Son's insights
into the SRV's thinking would be valuable to the USG.
Ambassador noted that Vietnam's continued integration into
the world economy was critical to its success, and that
Vietnam had clearly made a decision to improve its relations
with other countries, including the U.S. Son agreed that
Vietnam attached great importance to its relationship with
the U.S., expressed satisfaction at the Ambassador's
positive evaluation of new developments, and wished him a
safe trip when he accompanied Foreign Minister Nien to
Washington at the end of the month.

4. (U) Ambassador recommended to Son that CPV leaders also
visit the U.S. in order to see the U.S. system and meet
American people. The roles of various pressure groups in
the United States, he said, were poorly understood in
Vietnam, and CPV leaders could profit from seeing and
meeting with businesses, labor unions, ethnic groups, and
professional associations. Ambassador recognized that the
Commission's role was advisory, but stressed that visiting
the USG and meeting with Congress and interest groups would
provide a greater understanding of what really goes on in
the United States and improve the quality of the
Commission's recommendations. In particular, he added,
young people with bright futures should have the chance to
go to the U.S. to broaden their contacts and understanding.
Ambassador urged also that CPV officials meet with visiting
U.S. groups in order to make the CPV seem less mysterious.
Son thanked the Ambassador for his ideas and suggestions and
pledged to respond as soon as possible.

. . . and bad news

5. (U) Ambassador warned that human rights and religious
freedom issues "hang over the relationship like a dark
cloud." He observed that while both sides were working to
move the relationship forward, lack of progress in those
areas slowed progress. Son said he thought the conflicts
over human rights and religious freedom were in part due to
a lack of mutual understanding, and expressed hope that the
Ambassador would help others in the U.S. understand Vietnam
more clearly. In Son's opinion, there should be more
regular contact between the Embassy and "us." [Note: It was
ambiguous whether Son meant with the CPV, the Commission, or
the Central Committee. End note] Son claimed that Vietnam
wanted to continue the dialogue on human rights and
"democracy" and expressed a hope that, through the
Ambassador, the American people could understand Vietnam
better and build mutual trust.

6. (U) Ambassador noted that the key to increasing mutual
awareness was interaction in different spheres, including
cultural and educational exchanges. The U.S. had been
trying to increase those activities, but had run into some
problems with provincial authorities, most recently during
the Jazz Ambassadors' tour, he said. Son admitted that the
provinces sometimes "didn't get the message," and that
blocking the performance of a music group did not make

7. (U) Both the Ambassador and Son lamented the public
comment in each other's press. Ambassador stated that it
seemed that the editorials in the Vietnamese press, while
still harsh, had gotten somewhat better. Son likewise
complained about editorials in the U.S. press, adding that
American papers published "hurtful things" that he did not
care to repeat.

8. (U) Ambassador also expressed regret that bilateral
cooperation in certain areas -- particularly law enforcement
-- was still very slow; the result was a reduction in the
effectiveness of U.S. and Vietnamese agencies. Son
acknowledged Ambassador's concerns but did not offer a

International and other issues

9. (U) When asked about the most recent Party plenum on
national security strategy in June (ref b), Son claimed that
there had been no discussion of Iraq. He stated that
Vietnam had "its own attitude" about Iraq, and did not
follow any other country's lead. Son emphasized that
Vietnam was nonetheless prepared to participate in the
effort to help Iraq and would "work in line with Vietnam's
abilities and traditions." Son added that this attitude was
"intended to be cooperative and positive" and that Vietnam's
international activities were designed to "further
international relations and forge a proactive effort to
achieve Vietnam's needs and accelerate national economic
development." Considering Vietnam's particular expertise,
Ambassador suggested that Vietnam explore an international
peacekeeping role, perhaps with a focus on demining.

10. (U) Son reminded Ambassador that he was also a delegate
to the National Assembly and that Vietnam needed a better,
more complete legal system, which would ensure equality on
many fronts. He lamented the slow pace of reform in the
Vietnamese system, admitting that the GVN was "slow to
learn" from other governments but was highly concerned with
both quality and popular opinion in drafting and passing new

11. (U) Comment: Our efforts to elevate the substance of
strategic dialogue with the CPV's top foreign policy expert
were not notably successful. Son appeared to be unwilling
to deviate from predictable -- if generally positive --
lines. However, the Commission's staff has been quietly
helpful in recent months in arranging meetings for
Ambassador with General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and
Politburo member Tran Dinh Hoan, as well as other meetings
with various CPV Commissions for Pol/C, further indicating a
renewed willingness to engage in dialogue and expand
contacts. It will nonetheless likely take years of
increased dialogue before we reach the level of strategic
interchange more common with our other Asian diplomatic

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