Cablegate: Following Up On Dpm Khoan Visit with Vfm Bang

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. (SBU) Summary. Ambassador and Pol/C met with Vice
Foreign Minister Le Van Bang on December 24 to follow up on
issues from Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan's visit, about
which the Vietnamese leadership appears clearly pleased.
MFA will issue an invitation letter to Peace Corps. MFA
will also try to track down an invitation from the Ministry
of Public Security for USG experts to visit. MFA is still
exploring the possibility of a Prime Ministerial visit in
early 2004. Bang lamented the latest International
Religious Freedom report and its potential impact on
relations. He contrasted U.S. and Chinese strategies for
Southeast Asia but agreed that Vietnam should host the next
round of political dialogue to discuss these and other
topics. Septel will discuss Bang's good news on the New
Embassy Compound. End Summary.

Peace Corps

2. (U) Ambassador expressed congratulations on the
successful visit to the U.S. of DPM Vu Khoan, which he
praised as a "group effort" and about which he noted USG
satisfaction. VFM Bang noted the instrumental role played
by Ambassador Burghardt and the Embassy in making this visit
such a success and conveyed the GVN's thanks to all

3. (U) Ambassador inquired about the GVN's plans for next
steps vis--vis Peace Corps. He expressed concerns about
some apparent interest within the GVN in having an
invitation stem from the Ministry of Education and Training
(MOET), and noted that the Peace Corps' ultimate activities
in Vietnam could likely be well beyond the mandate of MOET,
even if volunteers might begin by teaching English to
science and technology students. VFM Bang immediately
confirmed that the invitation should come from the MFA,
since this was a "political" issue that should be "handled
with care." After expert talks, the GVN could decide
whether the Peace Corps program would fall under MOET, the
Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO), or some
other agency, he said.


4. (SBU) Ambassador expressed interest in moving forward
on DPM Khoan's apparent commitment to invite USG experts to
return in January to meet with the Ministry of Public
Security. VFM Bang promised to "look into this," but
reiterated that the invitation was up to MPS. (Note:
Embassy has contacted MPS twice but officials have not yet
confirmed any such intention to move so quickly. end note)

Prime Minister

5. (SBU) VFM Bang expressed interest in continuing high
level exchanges. He recognized the difficulty of arranging
a Prime Ministerial visit in 2004 due to U.S. elections, but
nonetheless inquired about the possibility of a visit in the
first quarter of 2004 (he later specified March or even
April). He emphasized, however, that he was not "pushing"
for this to happen; if this would be difficult to arrange,
the U.S. should simply let the MFA know. Ambassador asked
pointedly whether Prime Minister Khai would remain in
office; if not, it would be difficult to sell the idea of a
lame duck visit to the Administration. VFM Bang responded
only that "we will know for sure by the end of the year."

6. (U) The Ambassador also stressed that favorable GVN
decisions on big ticket items such as Vinasat (Lockheed
Martin) and/or Boeing would also be helpful in getting
agreement on a visit. He noted, however, that 2005 might
make much more sense, with the 10th anniversary of the
establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations.

Religious Freedom

7. (SBU) VFM Bang, noting a meeting in Washington with
Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom Hanford, called
the latest International Religious Freedom Report "not
conducive" to better bilateral relations. He said that the
MFA had nonetheless decided not to "make a big sound" about
it, apart from a short critical statement by the MFA
spokesman. He claimed that, overall, the GVN was "doing
better" on this front. He urged the Embassy to do a "better
job" in getting accurate information. Ambassador noted that
the Embassy made every effort to collect accurate
information from a wide variety of sources and to prepare a
fair and comprehensive report that describes problems as
they exist.

The China card

8. (SBU) The Ambassador also pointed to DPM Khoan's
comments on China during his various discussions in
Washington. VFM Bang (who until recently was in charge of
Northeast Asian relations) claimed that it was clear that
the CCP's 16th Party Congress had agreed upon a "change of
strategy" in which the PRC would be less inward-oriented and
would reach out not only to Southeast Asia but also to
Northeast Asia, Latin America, and Africa. In Southeast
Asia alone, he said that the RC was "into everything,"
describing the PRC as "aggressive" rather than merely
"active." He cited the China-ASEAN dialogue, the Free Trade
Area, accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and
proposed ASEAN Regional Forum military meetings. He implied
that U.S. engagement with and interest in Southeast Asia
were weak in comparison.

9. (U) Ambassador reiterated earlier USG observations
welcoming growing Chinese ties throughout Southeast Asia and
promising continued and expanded USG ties as well. He urged
that such topics be included in a future round of bilateral
political dialogue, or policy planning dialogue, which it
was the GVN's turn to host. VFM Bang immediately instructed
Assistant Foreign Minister Nguyen Duc Hung (who headed the
GVN delegation to the 2002 political dialogue) to arrange
for the MFA to make preparations for such an invitation to
the USG.


10. (SBU) We have heard from various Vietnamese sources
that the senior leadership was very pleased with DPM Khoan's
visit and with the Ambassador's personal helpful role in
particular. A highlight for the Vietnamese appears to have
been the meeting and meal with former President Bush, which
apparently was seen as granting a sort of symbolic Confucian
blessing on better U.S.-Vietnam ties.

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