Cablegate: Vietnam Celebrates 30th Year of "Saigon Liberation"

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

100156Z May 05


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E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) SUMMARY AND COMMENT: Vietnam celebrated the 30th
anniversary of the "liberation of Saigon" throughout the
country April 29-30. As Vietnam geared up for the event,
media sources charted an interesting path between
highlighting the 10th anniversary of bilateral relations
with the United States and the 30th anniversary of
"liberation" and the end of the war. The country's mass
media, including State-run VTV and official newspapers, have
carried coverage on U.S.-related topics for months, focusing
particularly on how Vietnam gained independence and the
United States lost the war. The press intensity was
predictable, except for the fact that the media consistently
used more positive and forward-looking language than we
expected, eschewing the insulting epithets that often
characterized press references to the United States in the
past, especially when referring to the war period. END

--------------------------------------------- --------------
30th Anniversary: Upbeat events throughout the country
--------------------------------------------- --------------

2. (U) Events marking the end of the war were generally
upbeat and devoid of any specific references to hostilities
with the United States. For example:

Hanoi: In an historic and victorious atmosphere, Hanoi
hosted a large-scale ceremony to celebrate the 30th
anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War on April 29.
Attending the event were leaders of the Communist Party of
Vietnam (CPV), State, Government, National Assembly (NA),
Fatherland Front, Veterans Association, war hero and Ho Chi
Minh comrade-in-arms General Vo Nguyen Giap and
representatives from various organizations and walks of
life. In his opening speech, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai
highlighted the Vietnamese spirit of "unity and solidarity"
during the war, as well as the importance of national
reconciliation. He stressed that the Vietnamese people
should use these qualities to build a Vietnam characterized
by "success, peace, unity, independence and sovereignty."
PM Khai's speech was followed by remarks by Lieutenant
General Tran Hanh, General Secretary of the Vietnam Veterans
Association, and a representative of "the country's youth."
General Hanh's speech "still showed some hatred," a reporter
from Quan Doi Nhan Dan ("People's Army") newspaper
commented, "but it does not necessarily reflect the
Government's view and guidelines." The veterans are
becoming "less influential," the reporter added.

3. (U) Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC): One day later, another
ceremony to mark the anniversary took place in Ho Chi Minh
City (reftel), with Government and city leaders in
attendance. President Tran Duc Luong and the city's Party
Secretary Nguyen Minh Triet addressed the event. In his

speech, Luong praised the resistance and the "first to go,
last to return" spirit during the war in the Saigon area.
In response, Party Secretary Nguyen Minh Triet showed the
city's determination "to build itself into a city of social
and political stability, with the goal of rapid economic
growth and regional and international economic integration."
To this end, Triet said, in its relations with the United
States, Vietnam focuses primarily on cooperation rather than

4. (U) Together with Hanoi and HCMC, commemorative
activities took place in every corner of the country. In
central Vietnam, Quang Tri province held on May 1 a festival
to celebrate the 30th anniversary of national reunification
at the historical site of Hien Luong Bridge, where the
demarcation line once divided the country. In the south,
provincial leaders and tens of thousands of revolutionary
veterans and people took part in gatherings in Dong Nai, Can
Tho, Tay Ninh, Dong Thap, Ben Tre and Ca Mau to celebrate
the victory. In the north, provinces such as Thai Nguyen,
Phu Tho and Hai Phong also contributed to the festive
atmosphere nationwide.

10th Anniversary: Reconciliation is the Theme
--------------------------------------------- -

5. (U) Besides the generally upbeat tone of the 30th

anniversary events, specific language referring to the
United States in recent speeches and media coverage has been
more positive. This is in contrast to the insulting
epithets sometimes used to identify the United States, such
as "hegemon," "imperialist" or "gendarme." For example, in
his aforementioned 30th anniversary speech, Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai did not call the United States anything other
than its name. In the latter half of the remarks, Khai
moved away from a historical focus and referred to "the end
of the old guards' era." "About 60 percent of Vietnam's
population was born after 1975", he said, and "the
Government counts on this generation to guide the country to
new heights of knowledge, technology, innovation and other
domains." Official rhetoric and documents usually refer to
the United States a source of knowledge, technology and
innovation, so the implication of the speech was that
Vietnam should focus on its future relationship with the
United States rather than its historical conflict.

6. (U) Separately, in a recent interview with the MFA's
"International Weekly" magazine, former Prime Minister Vo
Van Kiet, speaking generally (but in the context of a
discussion of the end of the war) stressed that "one should
not mention history too much. History is just like life,
with both the right and the wrong." "When you speak about
people's mistakes once, they understand, but they'll keep
quiet if you speak twice or three times. And frequent
repetitions just create a negative impact on their
sentiments." "Nothing is impossible," he said. "The war
was over several decades ago, and we transferred the
authority to the next generation. In other words, I want
the war to belong to the past - a past that we wish to close
out," Kiet went on. "We should not let victory lull us to
sleep," Kiet stressed towards the end of the interview.
"Closing out the past" and "moving toward true
reconciliation" are the "current trends," commented an
America think-tanker, one of POL's contacts.

7. (U) During a press briefing on April 21, MFA Spokesperson
Le Dzung responded to a question from AFP: "We would like
to express our deep sympathy to American families that have
relatives, I mean American soldiers, who died in the Vietnam
War." Earlier, the Vietnam-U.S. Friendship Association had
sent a very friendly open letter to the American peopl.
According to an April 22 press article, the Minster of
Defense also seems to have gotten the mesage: He included
"the American People" among te "international friends"
Vietnam had to thank fr their support in helping Vietnam
achieve victory in the war. "[Watching a current war
documentary] we clearly see the goodwill of the American
people," General Tra said. "Demonstrations in support of
Vietnam by the American people put pressure on the
administration, who then decided to deescalate the war, sign
an agreement with Vietnam and withdraw its troops from the
country. For that reason, we have expressed our thanks not
only to the Russian and Chinese people but also to our
American friends."


8. (U) Although sensitive bilateral issues, including human
rights, religious freedom and Agent Orange, continue to
provoke the official media, the non-hostile tone of
Vietnam's recent media coverage of other aspects of the
United States seems to reflect the Government's
"instructions" to the media to promote reconciliation. As
the two countries approach the 10th anniversary of the
normalization of diplomatic relations, we hope to see this
forward-looking trend continue. More recently, when
disputes or conflicts have arisen, the GVN has responded on
a case-by-case to issues with the relevant United States
agencies rather than referring to the entire United States
as a "bad system." End Comment.



© Scoop Media

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