Cablegate: Eap Das Huhtala's October 21 Meeting with Senior

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
SUBJECT: EAP DAS Huhtala's October 21 Meeting with Senior
Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung

1. (SBU) Summary: During an October 21 meeting with Senior
Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung, EAP Deputy Assistant
Secretary Marie Huhtala underlined the need for Vietnam to

take concrete steps to improve its religious freedom
situation, particularly in the run-up to next year's events
to commemorate the tenth anniversary of bilateral relations,
including the hoped-for visit to the United States of Prime
Minister Phan Van Khai. VFM Phung replied in familiar terms
that Vietnam had already taken many positive and
"appropriate" steps in this area and will take more as
necessary. DAS Huhtala stressed the USG's support both for
the continued implementation of the Bilateral Trade
Agreement and Vietnam's WTO accession. In spite of progress
in trade and other areas, however, law enforcement
cooperation remained lacking, DAS Huhtala said. For its
part, MFA sought greater law enforcement cooperation with
other countries and hoped that the United States itself
would provide greater cooperation in dealing with anti-
Vietnam "terrorists" still in the United States. DAS
Huhtala informed VFM Phung that the Department had passed on
to the White House the GVN's request for a Presidential
meeting in Santiago in November. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia
and Pacific Affairs Marie Huhtala met October 21 with Senior
Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung. The Ambassador and
Pol/C also attended. VFM Phung opened by congratulating DAS
Huhtala on the assumption of her new position and underlined
that both countries would be busy in the coming months as
they prepared to mark the tenth anniversary of the
normalization of bilateral relations in 2005. DAS Huhtala
observed that much in Vietnam has changed since her last
visit, and, since normalization, the United States and
Vietnam have made a great deal of progress through signing
and implementing the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA),
cooperating in the efforts for fullest possible accounting
of POW/MIAs and expanding humanitarian and development

3. (SBU) With trade ties continuing to grow and political
relations increasingly substantive, VFM Phung expressed his
satisfaction with the current state of relations. Both
countries now have to focus on building a "framework" to
sustain the continued development of ties to serve both
countries' peoples and governments. However, there is also
business to attend to in the bilateral relationship, VFM
Phung continued. With next year's anniversary approaching -
- and a possible visit by PM Phan Van Khai in the offing --
both sides have to make efforts to create a "good
atmosphere." Recalling his September conversation with the
Deputy Secretary, VFM Phung said that Mr. Armitage had
expressed his support for a PM Khai visit in the first
quarter of 2005. For its part, Vietnam's leadership will
have to make a decision on the visit and its timing.

Religious Freedom

4. (SBU) The Deputy Secretary's support for a successful
visit by the Prime Minister reflects the position of the
USG, DAS Huhtala said. Having a successful visit, however,
requires our addressing issues in the areas of human rights
and religious freedom. VFM Phung rejoined that, even if
these issues were resolved, other issues would rise up in
their place. There is no such thing as a 100 percent
perfect relationship, he continued, but what is important is
bilateral cooperation and how the United States and Vietnam
approach the problems facing them. For example, on the
issue of Country of Particular Concern (CPC) designation, we
have to realize that there are differences between our two
countries in how we approach this issue. Vietnam
understands that there is an American domestic angle to this
issue, just as Vietnam itself has a domestic angle. If the
United States and Vietnam desire good relations and seek to
create a "good atmosphere," both sides have to make sincere
efforts, VFM Phung stressed.

5. (SBU) Even though there has been some progress in the
area of religious freedom, resolving this issue requires
further efforts and close bilateral cooperation, DAS Huhtala
said. Vietnam could make a positive impact by taking
certain concrete steps. The International Religious Freedom
Act has the requirement for potential economic sanctions if,
after 90 or 180 days, we have not seen progress on the part
of Vietnam. Although we still have time, Vietnam must
nonetheless act. We understand that the GVN is preparing
the implementing regulations for the new Ordinance on
Religion. Strong language in those regulations banning
forced renunciations would make a significant impression,
DAS Huhtala said.

6. (SBU) Vietnam has never had a policy that forbids people
from following their religious beliefs, VFM Phung responded.
Furthermore, Vietnam's Constitution protects the people's
right to practice or not practice religion freely. It
should be clear that there have been a number of
improvements recently in the religious freedom situation in
Vietnam. DAS Huhtala replied that, while it is important to
have a strong legal framework in support of religious
freedom, it is equally important for local officials to know
the government's laws and policy so as to not violate
religious rights. If there were any such violations, the
local officials would surely be investigated and, if
necessary, punished, VFM Phung retorted.

7. (SBU) Recalling his conversation with International
Religious Freedom Ambassador John Hanford, Phung relayed
that the Ambassador had said he was not yet satisfied with
Vietnam's efforts. But Vietnam cannot satisfy everyone. It
had been very difficult for Vietnam to take the step to
promulgate the new Ordinance on Religion. Nonetheless, if
further changes are required, Vietnam will make the
necessary changes in the future. The United States has to
see the "nature" of the actions Vietnam has taken and cannot
expect complete satisfaction all of the time. The GVN
respects freedom of religion and understands that it has to
take steps and will continue to take steps. However, in
devising its policy, the GVN also has to rely on Vietnam's
"actual circumstances, the people's psychology and society's
conditions." It is not easy, but "things are getting better
and better," Phung stressed.

Trade: BTA and WTO

8. (SBU) DAS Huhtala noted that BTA implementation is going
well. VFM Phung responded that Vietnam expects that the USG
will support Vietnam's WTO accession and, through continued
good cooperation, will implement further the BTA. Vietnam
had already concluded its bilateral WTO talks with the EU
and hopes to do the same with the United States "soon." The
USG has a strong will to make the BTA work and, as the
Deputy Secretary said, we support Vietnam strongly in its
WTO aspirations, DAS Huhtala noted. Although there will
always be issues requiring our attention -- such as
intellectual property rights, a problem that is shared by
all in the region -- we will continue to work out our

Law Enforcement Cooperation

9. (SBU) DAS Huhtala noted that, while there has been
progress in many areas, bilateral law enforcement
cooperation is not going well. This is one area that is not
where it should be, and United States and Vietnam need to
work together more closely. Law enforcement cooperation is
especially important in light of the Global War on Terror,
and one way to improve our relationship in this area is
through the better sharing of information. VFM Phung
replied that MFA hopes to see greater cooperation in the
security area. Vietnam's position on terror is clear, and
Vietnam is making progress in its cooperative
counterterrorism efforts with others in the region, Phung

10. (SBU) For Vietnam's part, it also seeks greater
cooperation from the United States in the area of law
enforcement cooperation, Phung continued. For example,
there are anti-Vietnam "terrorists" in the United States
such as Nguyen Huu Chanh and Vo Van Duc, the latter of whom
"should be extradited." There was the also the recent case
of shots fired on two occasions into a Vietnamese Consulate
General employee's residence in San Francisco, Phung added.
DAS Huhtala replied that the Department had asked the FBI to
look into Chanh and that the USG is working on the Vo Van
Duc case. In the case of the shots fired in San Francisco,
the Department requested the San Francisco Police
Department's assistance, and there are indications that the
shots were a result of random violence. These incidents
showed the necessity of bilateral law enforcement
cooperation and the importance of sharing information, DAS
Huhtala said.

11. (SBU) MFA encouraged Vietnam's security forces to work
with the police and law enforcement agencies of other
countries, VFM Phung noted. During the ASEM-5 Summit,
Vietnam had excellent cooperation with "others," and,
fortunately, there were no security incidents during the
meeting. Vietnam will continue to cooperate with other
countries in the region to both share information and do
whatever is possible to combat terrorism, Phung stressed.

APEC 2004

12. (SBU) In closing, DAS Huhtala told VFM Phung that the
Department had conveyed to the White House Vietnam's request
for a meeting between the President and Vietnam State
President Tran Duc Luong in Santiago.


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