Cablegate: Burma Addressed in Low-Substance Asem Summit

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

REFTEL: Hanoi 2638

1. (SBU) Summary and Comment: Predictions that ASEM-5 would
be a talk shop lacking in substance proved for the most part
accurate, but the Europeans successfully insisted on raising
the Burma issue and including a reference to the political
situation there in the Chairman's Statement. The event
itself went smoothly, with no serious problems or incidents,
and offered an excellent opportunity for the assembled
leaders to pursue bilateral meetings on the summit's
margins. The Vietnamese spent lavishly during the
concurrent bilateral visits of the French President and
German Chancellor, signing contracts for ten Airbus jets, 16
German locomotives, a light rail project for Hanoi, a cement
factory and a limestone processing plant for a total
expenditure of more than USD one billion. Vietnam and the
EU were also able to use the occasion to conclude their
bilateral WTO talks. Ultimately, ASEM-5 underscored that
the Asian preference for formal diplomatic frameworks
focusing on uncontroversial issues such as economic and
cultural relations remains strong, as does the European
preference for more substantial and "productive" events.
End Summary and Comment.


2. (U) The dominant reaction of our Asian and European
interlocutors alike to the successful conclusion of the
Fifth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM-5) held October 7-9 in Hanoi
was relief. The Europeans were relieved that the summit
unfolded without any major problems or incidents, and the
Asians were relieved that the Europeans did not let the
Burma issue derail the entire event -- although there was
some reported dissatisfaction on the part of the GVN and
other Asian representatives that European participation was
at a relatively lower level. On Burma, the delegates were
ultimately able to agree to a paragraph (4.7) in the
Chairman's Statement under the heading of "Recent Regional
Developments" as follows:

Begin text:

The Leaders took note of the briefing on the recent
political developments in Myanmar given by the Head of the
Myanmar delegation. In this connection, they encouraged all
stakeholders in the country to work together to ensure a
successful outcome of the ongoing national reconciliation
process. The National Convention should be an important
element in the national reconciliation and democratization
process and a forum for a genuine open debate with the
participation of all political groups in the country. They
looked forward to the early lifting of restrictions placed
on political parties in accordance with the assurances given
by Myanmar. They also reaffirmed their support for the
efforts of the Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General.

End text.


3. (SBU) The reaction to the final Burma compromise was
lukewarm but positive. Even though its effort to include a
call for Aung San Suu Kyi's release failed, the UK
delegation viewed the Burma language in the Chairman's
Statement as "decent enough." The Singaporeans were happy
that the issue had not derailed the summit. The Spanish
Ambassador told the Ambassador that he thought that human
rights and political issues had been somewhat neglected, but
that the summit had on the whole been worthwhile. The
French (who, according the Czech Ambassador, had joined the
Germans in opposition to raising the issue at all)
considered the statement an "acceptable outcome" but
complained that the conflict over Burma's participation had
overshadowed this ASEM summit to the point where real
progress on other issues was not possible.


4. (SBU) The French complaint that ASEM-5 contained more
form than substance was echoed by all of our other European
interlocutors, and may be shared by the GVN. According to
French First Secretary Alexis Andres, Foreign Minister
Nguyen Dy Nien told French Ambassador Antoine Pouilleute
that he "agreed" that ASEM should strive for "more
operational outcomes." The British have a different view of
the Vietnamese attitude, however: they blame the GVN for
spiking at the SOM level an Indonesian proposal to create an
Asian-Europe cultural dialogue on religion, despite strong
support from the European countries and from the
Philippines. In general, however, our European
interlocutors agreed that the Asians were concerned with
maintaining the protocol level of the meetings and
restricting them to the cultural and economic areas while
the Europeans wanted to see ASEM address the issues of the
day, such as Burma or human rights. One thing on which all
of the participants agreed was that ASEM-5 offered an
excellent opportunity for leaders to meet each other
informally. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' ASEM
Secretariat estimated that there were more than 150 leader-

level bilateral meetings on the margins of ASEM-5.

--------------------------------------------- -

5. (SBU) Many of our interlocutors were pleasantly surprised
that there were no major security, logistical or
organizational problems during the confab. A common refrain
from European diplomats, journalists and even some of
Vietnam's ASEAN colleagues was that the event proceeded
"surprisingly smoothly." The Japanese noted that there were
serious problems with parking for non-delegation vehicles in
the vicinity of the events, and the French ran into trouble
when some members of their delegation were refused entry
into certain events due to a credentialing mix-up. However,
the consensus was that these were relatively minor problems
considering the scale of the event. One worrisome
observation involved security: the UK Embassy noted that,
although the approaches to the event were strictly guarded
and the GVN dedicated a massive amount of manpower to
security, well-dressed and well-groomed individuals (both
Asian and European) were often allowed to pass security
checkpoints freely without having to show credentials. On
the positive side, the German Deputy Chief of Mission said
that GVN cooperation with German security personnel
protecting Chancellor Schroeder was "excellent," a sentiment
echoed by the French in describing the arrangements for
President Chirac.

6. (SBU) Unfortunately, there were few logistical or
security lessons from ASEM-5 that will be applicable to the
2006 APEC summit in Hanoi. That event will be held at the
new International Convention Center on the outskirts of the
city, far from the ASEM-5 venue in the center of Hanoi.

7. (SBU) There were no tangible, substantive outcomes to the
ASEM-5 summit. The documents generated by the event --
including the Chairman's Statement; Recommendations for
Organizational and Management Strategy and Long Term
Financial Sustainability of ASEF (Asia-Europe Foundation);
Recommendations for ASEM Working Methods; the ASEM Work
Program 2004-2006; the List of New Initiatives; and ASEM
Activities since ASEM-4 -- are available online at


8. (SBU) Vietnam had a productive series of bilateral visits
and high-level meetings that occurred concurrently with the
summit, including with Japan, the ROK and China (septel).
Vietnam was also able to conclude its bilateral WTO talks
with the EU (also septel). The GVN went on a spending spree
during the visits of the French President and the German
Chancellor: it signed an MOU with France to buy ten Airbus
aircraft with a contract value of USD 750 million (details
to be negotiated later) and agreed that the French would
build an above-ground tramway through Hanoi at a cost of
approximately USD 200 million, of which USD 140 million
would be a loan and USD 60 million would be a grant.
Germany obtained agreement on the GVN purchase of 16 diesel
locomotives for 45 million Euros (USD 55.5 million) and
concluded a deal worth 110 million Euros (USD 136 million)
for ThyssenKrupp AG to provide a cement factory and
limestone processing plant. The Germans had been
negotiating the locomotive deal for nine years prior to the
Chancellor's visit, according to the German DCM. Vietnam
also signed agreements with Japan, China, South Korea, the
EU, Sweden and Belgium, although none of those was as
substantial as the deals with the French and the Germans.

9. (SBU) Comment: ASEM-5 was a tribute to the utility of
low expectations. The heated debate over Burma's
participation and the subsequent attendance by a limited
number of high-profile European leaders made the very
existence of the ASEM-5 summit appear to be an
accomplishment. The fact that it concluded without any
negative incidents and with a consensus position on Burma
then seemed like a triumph. EU concerns (reftel) that ASEM-
5 would end up a substance-free talk shop turned out to be
well-founded, but the opportunities for productive bilateral
meetings on the sidelines made the event worthwhile for all
who attended. The Asian preference for formal diplomatic
frameworks focusing on uncontroversial issues such as
economic and cultural relations remains, as does the
European preference for more substantial and "productive"
events. Conflict over the ultimate character of ASEM will
likely carry over to ASEM-6 in Helsinki in 2006, but the
opportunity to arrange a rich schedule of high-level
bilateral meetings will prove a powerful draw nonetheless.

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