Cablegate: Vfm Bang On Upcoming Visits, Human Rights, Ships

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. In a meeting with the Ambassador, VFM Bang
stated that a visit to the U.S. by Politburo member Phan
Dien would be important to further progress in bilateral
ties. He welcomed upcoming visits by A/S Kelly, A/S Craner,
and ASD Rodman for additional dialogue. He claimed high
level support for a further opening up of the Central
Highlands, including by mission officers, and described
plans to convene provincial officials to hear first-hand
from central authorities about the GVN's commitment to
religious freedom and greater openness. He urged direct
talks with MOD about details of upcoming ship visits. End

2. (U) Ambassador, accompanied by DCM and Pol/C, briefed
Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang on April 6 about recent
consultations in Washington and upcoming events. Bang was
joined by Americas Department Deputy Director Nguyen Ba Hung
and staffer Nguyen Hoanh Nam.

Phan Dien

3. (SBU) Ambassador noted overall support in Washington for
a July visit by Politburo member Phan Dien, with details
about exact timing, itinerary, and Washington appointments
yet to be worked out. VFM Bang called this trip the "right
idea" at this time, and promised that it would "contribute
to relations." He suggested a July 5-15 timeframe. He
urged Ambassador to go along if possible, and noted that
Ambassador Chien had suggested that Bang also accompany. He
confirmed that Phan Dien, while not the Prime Minister,
should be treated as a "very high" level visitor.

4. (SBU) Ambassador suggested further discussions soon on
ways in which Vietnam could improve the climate for such a
visit, including progress on human rights, commercial deals,
and an Article 98 agreement. Bang concurred with the
desirability of such further talks, citing specifically US
interest in the Article 98 agreement. He noted that, from
the GVN perspective, the meetings with National Security
Adviser Rice and Secretary Powell were the top priority,
whereas meetings with members of Congress, who would likely
be out of session, were less important. He stressed the
need for both sides to share information about expected
agenda items so that there are "no secrets, no surprises"
during Phan Dien's discussions.

Other visitors

5. (U) Ambassador informed VFM Bang that A/S Kelly would
like to visit Hanoi following the ARF SOM May 11/12 in order
to have the next round of political dialogue. Bang said
that he was looking forward to the visit and would clear his
calendar to welcome A/S Kelly personally. Ambassador noted
that A/S Craner likely would also come in the second or
third week of May, not for a formal Human Rights Dialogue,
but for an exchange of views on human rights and religious
freedom. Bang called for "serious talks" before Craner's
visit in order to make this exchange "effective." Finally,
Ambassador noted ASD Rodman's likely June 4/5 visit, and
expected calls at MFA, MOD, the MFA's Institute for
International Relations, and the MPS' new research
institute. Bang indicated support for the visit.

6. (U) VFM Bang also noted the upcoming visit to the U.S.
of National Assembly Vice Chairman Nguyen Phuc Thanh, and
asked that the USG receive his delegation well. Ambassador
noted that we had invited the delegation to the residence
before departure to answer any questions and to get a firmer
sense of its priorities and intentions.

Human rights and religion

7. (SBU) Ambassador told Bang that he had discussed with
Ambassador-at-large for Religious Freedom Hanford the
possibility of designation of Vietnam as a "Country of
Particular Concern" but that no decision had been reached
yet. He added that he had met with Chairman Thi of the
Government Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA) just before
going to Washington and was seeking another meeting soon.
Bang noted that he himself had recently met with Chairman
Thi to discuss religious freedom issues. Bang said he had
also met with Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Vice
Minister of Public Security Nguyen Van Huong to discuss the
situation in the Central Highlands. They agreed that the
situation was "good" and that Vietnam should have "nothing
to hide." They agreed that the policy and reality is that
Vietnam should be more "open" and let visitors travel to the
Central Highlands more freely. He noted that he had agreed
for poloffs to go to the Central Highlands soon. (Note:
there will be a joint Embassy/ConGen reporting trip over the
Easter holiday. End note) He added that the Ambassadors of
Switzerland, Norway, New Zealand, and Canada would also soon
travel to the Central Highlands.

8. (U) Ambassador noted credible new reports of additional
church closures, arrests, and beatings in Kontum and
elsewhere, indicating at the very least a "disconnect" at
the provincial or district level about implementation of GVN
policy. VFM Bang agreed that this was a problem, and said
that there would soon be a meeting at which central GVN
leaders would clarify policy to provincial leaders from the
Central and Northwest Highlands and try to ensure that local
officials did not violate the official policy of the GVN and
CPV regarding freedom of religion. He expressed thanks for
the "patience and considerate opinion" of the Ambassador and
Embassy staff regarding human rights issues; although the
Embassy was often critical, it was fair, he admitted. He
stressed Vietnam's progress over the longer term, but cited
a remaining problem with a "small group of people" who have
yet to "work in cooperation." He promised that the GVN
would attempt to "persuade" rather than jail them. (Note:
Bang's reference was not clear, but presumably was about
unrecognized evangelists and house church leaders, as well
possibly at some of the Dega separatist leaders. End note)

Ship visits

9. (U) Ambassador described his recent discussions with
PACOM, and expressed appreciation that the GVN had
"postponed" the April ship visit until the second half of
the year, rather than "canceling" it. He urged additional
talks at the working level to determine just how many visits
per year would be possible (while encouraging the GVN to
agree to two), their timing, desired sites, and other
details. VFM Bang expressed MFA support for ship visits,
but urged the Embassy to be in direct contact with MOD and

10. (SBU) Comment: We need to pin down as quickly as
possible the details of the upcoming US visitors and decide
upon our own priorities for discussion. On the political
dialogue (for which the MFA as host will have the first
crack at an agenda), we have encouraged that the focus be as
much as possible on larger strategic issues -- China's role,
Korean peninsula, South China Sea, etc. -- while leaving the
human rights dimension for A/S Craner's more focused
exchanges. VFM Bang is clearly eager for a successful Phan
Dien visit, but also nervous lest it go wrong and put Phan
Dien in an awkward or embarrassing position. Having seen
Phan Dien in action responding to human rights issues, we
are less worried about this than Bang, however, and predict
that he will be able to hold his own on the whole range of
issues in the bilateral relationship.

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