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Cablegate: Ambassador's September 17 Meeting with Vice

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 002609

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV

For OBO/REPM/ACQ - Mike Lash

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM PINR ABLD AMGT VM
SUBJECT: Ambassador's September 17 Meeting with Vice
Foreign Minister Le Van Bang
Ref: A) Hanoi 2149 B) State

161328 C) State 159268 D) Hanoi 25951.

(SBU) Summary and Comment: The Ambassador met September 17 with Vice
Foreign Minister Le Van Bang. Bang's first piece of
business was to inform the Ambassador that the President had
agreed to receive the Ambassador's credentials "earlier than
normal," specifically "later this month." VFM Bang agreed
that the acquisition of the new Embassy compound was a
critical issue that required both sides' attention and urged
the USG to talk with the Russians, just as the GVN would
continue to do. All that was left was to "sign the deal"
with them, Bang claimed. The VFM expressed his hope that he
and the Ambassador would be able to meet regularly to "sort
out" issues and added that, regardless of what might arise,
at the end of the day it was the bilateral relationship that
was most important. Bang's tone was upbeat; surprisingly,
he passed on the opportunity to raise the recent designation
of Vietnam as a "Country of Particular Concern." End
Summary and Comment.2. (SBU) The Ambassador, accompanied by
DCM and Pol/C, met September 17 with Vice Foreign Minister
Le Van Bang. This was the Ambassador's first meeting with
VFM Bang since the late 1980s. VFM Bang opened by recalling
that he had first met the Ambassador when the latter was
Deputy Director of the Office of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
Affairs and had traveled to Vietnam in 1989 and 1990 for
humanitarian discussions. Bang expressed his hope that the
Ambassador would be able to continue to improve relations as
he had done during his previous contacts with Vietnam. VFM
Bang informed the Ambassador that, although Vietnam's
President normally accepted the credentials of new
ambassadors only four times a year -- with the next ceremony
scheduled for November -- MFA had learned September 16 that
the Ambassador and several other newcomers would have the
opportunity to present their credentials "later this month."
Bang noted that this was a "privilege" and quickly added
that one of his responsibilities was state protocol.3. (SBU)
In response to the Ambassador's question about his other
responsibilities beyond U.S.-Vietnam relations and state
protocol, Bang said that he was also in charge of
international organizations and U.N. affairs, as well as the
administrative, financial and budget issues of foreign
missions. As such, he had a key role to play in the USG's
desired acquisition of land for a new Embassy compound (NEC)
(Refs A, B, C, and see para 7 for background). Bang
complained that he had tried to work with the Russians, but
they seemed to be having problems coming to closure on the
deal. The Ambassador remarked that time was not on our
side, noting that the money earmarked for the project would
not be available forever and that the Hanoi People's
Committee appeared to be shopping around the property. Bang
said that Vietnam was equally interested in acquiring
property in Washington, D.C. (for $10 million) and agreed
with the Ambassador that this was an issue of reciprocity.
MFA's Legal Department Director General, who was in charge
of the NEC negotiation, had informed Bang September 16 that
he planned to speak with the Russian Ambassador about this
issue and ask that they "resume" their deal as soon as
possible. Both sides had agreed on a price last December,
and all that was left was to sign. The GVN would continue
to work with the Russians, but the USG should also weigh in
with the Russians, Bang suggested.
4. (SBU) Bang said that there were many other issues on
which both he and the Ambassador would have to focus their
attention and expressed his hope that they would be able to
sit down soon and "sort them out" the way he had down with
Ambassadors Peterson and Burghardt. Although he himself had
been dealing with American issues since 1989, it seemed
that, in the American system, people moved in and out of
jobs every two or three years, he observed.

5. (SBU) Bang noted that in light of the early October ASEM
5 Summit in Hanoi and November APEC Summit in Santiago, he
was "very busy." However, he would see the Ambassador again
on the occasion of the presentation of his credentials and
agreed that they should try to find time to meet again soon.
The Ambassador noted that Ambassador Burghardt had always
valued the chance to work quietly and constructively with
Bang and, although not always seeing eye-to-eye, they were
able to solve some issues and to keep others under control.
Bang agreed, saying that it was important to work together
officially, unofficially, privately, or "otherwise,"
because, at the end of the day, it was the bilateral
relationship that was most important.6. (SBU) Comment:
Bang's tone was upbeat and forward-looking. In contrast
with the Ambassador's conversation the day before with
Assistant Foreign Minister Hung (Ref D), there was no
mention of the religious freedom issue or the Department's
designation of Vietnam as a country of particular concern.7.
(U) NEC Background: Embassy Hanoi officers met July 29 with
Le Van Bang. This was the Ambassador's first meeting with
VFM Bang since the late 1980s. VFM Bang opened by recalling
that he had first met the Ambassador when the latter was
Deputy Director of the Office of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia
Affairs and had traveled to Vietnam in 1989 and 1990 for
humanitarian discussions. Bang expressed his hope that the
Ambassador would be able to continue to improve relations as
he had done during his previous contacts with Vietnam. VFM
Bang informed the Ambassador that, although Vietnam's
President normally accepted the credentials of new
ambassadors only four times a year -- with the next ceremony
scheduled for November -- MFA had learned September 16 that
the Ambassador and several other newcomers would have the
opportunity to present their credentials "later this month."
Bang noted that this was a "privilege" and quickly added
that one of his responsibilities was state protocol.3. (SBU)
In response to the Ambassador's question about his other
responsibilities beyond U.S.-Vietnam relations and state
protocol, Bang said that he was also in charge of
international organizations and U.N. affairs, as well as the
administrative, financial and budget issues of foreign
missions. As such, he had a key role to play in the USG's
desired acquisition of land for a new Embassy compound (NEC)
(Refs A, B, C, and see para 7 for background). Bang
complained that he had tried to work with the Russians, but
they seemed to be having problems coming to closure on the
deal. The Ambassador remarked that time was not on our
side, noting that the money earmarked for the project would
not be available forever and that the Hanoi People's
Committee appeared to be shopping around the property. Bang
said that Vietnam was equally interested in acquiring
property in Washington, D.C. (for $10 million) and agreed
with the Ambassador that this was an issue of reciprocity.
MFA's Legal Department Director General, who was in charge
of the NEC negotiation, had informed Bang September 16 that
he planned to speak with the Russian Ambassador about this
issue and ask that they "resume" their deal as soon as
possible. Both sides had agreed on a price last December,
and all that was left was to sign. The GVN would continue
to work with the Russians, but the USG should also weigh in
with the Russians, Bang suggested.
4. (SBU) Bang said that there were many other issues on
which both he and the Ambassador would have to focus their
attention and expressed his hope that they would be able to
sit down soon and "sort them out" the way he had down with
Ambassadors Peterson and Burghardt. Although he himself had
been dealing with American issues since 1989, it seemed
that, in the American system, people moved in and out of
jobs every two or three years, he observed.

Diplomatic Services Bureau General Director Xuong, at which
time he stated a "strong desire" to settle the NEC matter
with the Russians before September 30 (the end of the GVN's
fiscal year). Xuong claimed that the GVN's efforts to
finalize the agreement with Russia were stymied by a
reorganization of the Russian Foreign Ministry. He
explained that it was unclear which Russian MFA
directorate/vice-minister had responsibility for this
particular initiative. When asked if the GVN would consider
starting "informal" discussions with the USG regarding
possible acquisition costs, protocols, etc., Ambassador
Xuong reiterated the Vietnamese position that it would not
commence direct GVN-USG negotiations until his government
had regained full legal rights to the property. Note: the
GVN and Russian MFA appear to have already agreed a price
($2 million) to offset Russian infrastructure improvements
to the site. End Background.MARINE

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