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Cablegate: The Ambassador's August 18 Meeting with Politburo

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: The Ambassador's August 18 Meeting with Politburo
Member Phan Dzien

Ref: A) Hanoi 1888; B) Hanoi 2063


1. (SBU) During an August 18 meeting with senior Politburo
member Phan Dzien, the Ambassador underlined continued USG
support for Vietnam's WTO accession and stressed that, while
bilateral progress is important, Vietnam will also need to
deal with multilateral issues in Geneva and matters raised
by the U.S. Congress in the course of the PNTR vote. Dzien,
while urging the United States to rapidly conclude its talks
with Vietnam, acknowledged that Vietnam's legislative
efforts are running late. On the issue of religious
freedom, Dzien repeated Vietnam's policy of allowing
religious freedom but acknowledged that local officials do
not always follow this policy. On the subject of next
year's tenth Party Congress, Dzien said that the Party is
examining ways to strengthen Vietnam's market economy, speed
up equitization and increase rule of law. While the Party
will maintain its leadership role in Vietnam, it is
nonetheless examining ways to develop democracy and enhance
the role of elective bodies and mass organizations. End

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2. (SBU) The Ambassador met for an hour August 18 with
Politburo member Phan Dzien. (Note: Dzien is ranked sixth
in the Politburo and is the standing member of the Communist
Party (CPV) Central Committee's nine-member Secretariat,
ranking just after General Secretary Nong Duc Manh. He is
primarily responsible for the day-to-day leadership of the
Party. End note.) The Ambassador opened by thanking Dzien
for his leading role in promoting U.S.-Vietnam relations.
The Prime Minister's visit to the United States was the
highlight of the tenth anniversary of the establishment of
bilateral relations, and many factors were a part of its
success. The PM's reception in the United States reinforced
his and others' views about what can be done to expand the
bilateral relationship. With Vietnam's hosting APEC in 2006
and President Bush scheduled to attend, the current momentum
of the relationship will be kept up into next year, the
Ambassador said.

WTO Accession

3. (SBU) To allow the bilateral relationship to grow as the
United States would like, it is important for Vietnam to be
strong and prosperous, the Ambassador continued. The next
logical step in ensuring this is Vietnam's WTO accession,
which the United States continues to support. During the
President's meeting with Prime Minister Khai, he made clear
that a political decision had been made to support Vietnam's
WTO aspirations. What remain are technical matters. As the
Ambassador recently noted to Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan,
much is being done behind the scenes to prepare for the next
round of bilateral WTO negotiations (Ref A). We recognize
that some in Vietnam are concerned that we have thus far
been unable to conclude our talks. The fact of the matter
is the bilateral negotiations are probably the easiest of
the three elements necessary to Vietnam's accession.

4. (SBU) In addition to the bilateral negotiations, there
are multilateral discussions in Geneva through the Working
Party, the Ambassador explained. The key here is Vietnam's
creation of the proper legal framework for WTO entry, which
we recognize the National Assembly and the GVN have been
working on for the past year. However, the issue of timing
remains because the National Assembly has to pass laws that
the Working Group will not see until later this year.

5. (SBU) The third element is Congress's Permanent Normal
Trade Relations (PNTR) vote for Vietnam. This will involve
a close review of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) and
the attitude of U.S. business towards Vietnam, which we have
found to be strongly supportive. The PNTR vote will also be
an opportunity for Members of Congress with interests in
Vietnam and in certain aspects of the bilateral relationship
to ask for clarifications and express their opinions. These
matters may not have anything to do with trade. However, we
have to be prepared to deal with these issues, which will
likely be related to areas in which our two countries have
differences, such as human rights, religious freedom and the
treatment of ethnic minorities, the Ambassador said.
Religious Freedom: Party Can Play a Role
6. (SBU) The USG recognizes fully the progress that Vietnam
has made in recent years in dealing with these matters. The
Party and GVN deserve credit for improving Vietnam's
standard of living, expanding the space available for
religious believers and creating social and economic
opportunities for ethnic minorities. However, problems
remain, and it is important that we manage problem areas
through continued dialogue and exchanges of information.
One example of an area of difficulty is that some local
officials either do not understand or choose to ignore the
GVN's clearly articulated new policy on religious freedom.
Given the breadth of its organization across Vietnam, the
Party can play a leading role in ensuring that officials
obey the letter and spirit of Vietnam's laws and
Constitution, the Ambassador suggested.

Ho Chi Minh Desired Expanded Relations

7. (SBU) Vietnam attaches great importance to its
relationship with the United States and hopes that bilateral
relations proceed accordingly, Dzien said. During a recent
visit to Ho Chi Minh's redoubt in Tuyen Quang Province in
the months before his return to Hanoi in 1945, Dzien was
able to tour a small airfield that U.S. planes used to
provide support to Ho and his comrades. A U.S. plane is
still on display, a symbol of Ho Chi Minh's desire to expand
relations with the United States, Dzien explained.

Vietnam Running Late

8. (SBU) On the ongoing bilateral WTO negotiations, Dzien
expressed his hope that the talks would soon conclude,
providing impetus to the conclusion of Vietnam's talks with
other nations. As for the National Assembly's legislative
work, "to be frank, we are worried," Dzien said. Vietnam
realizes that it is running late, but will spare no effort
to complete the tasks at hand by the end of the year. On
the PNTR vote in the U.S. Congress, Vietnam understands it
has to create favorable conditions for the vote.

Local Officials Do Not Always Follow Policy

9. (SBU) It is true that local officials do not always
follow Government policy, Dzien continued. Religion has
played a complex role in Vietnam's wars. In each religion,
there have been supporters of the revolution and supporters
of the former southern regime, and this latter opposition
has sometimes led to bloody conflict. It is by no means
easy to eliminate this discord. That said, it is Vietnam's
policy to make every effort to ensure freedom of religion
and unite all religions to serve the cause of national
construction. Furthermore, religious activities must be
within the framework of Vietnam's laws. In the event that
there are specific cases of interest, Vietnam will take note
of others' concerns, Dzien said.

Tackling Tough Issues

10. (SBU) It seems clear that Ho Chi Minh saw the
possibility for bilateral relations before others saw it,
but our missed opportunities in the past make it all the
more important not to miss opportunities now, the Ambassador
observed. Forty years ago it would have been difficult to
predict where we are today and that the relationship would
develop as it has. Our shared history makes our relations
stronger and creates more possibilities. Although we still
have tough issues to tackle, we are making progress. For
example, a DOD team just held a workshop on decontaminating
dioxin sites, which proved to be an opportunity for positive
exchanges between military experts from both countries.
Additionally, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is using
money from the U.S. Congress to clear unexploded ordnance
and help those whose lives have been badly affected by UXO.
Relations between Viet Kieu and Vietnam are also sensitive,
and the Ambassador expressed his desire to help create
better communication and understanding between the two. The
GVN has an active policy to increase dialogue, but more can
be done to help reconcile Viet Kieu to the Vietnam of today,
the Ambassador noted.

11. (SBU) On the WTO, the USG applauds Vietnam's steadfast
efforts to do all that is possible to enter the WTO,
preferably by the end of 2005. However, fixating on Hong
Kong in December may cause the process to be too rushed.
What is most important is for Vietnam to join the WTO fully
prepared and with the right set of laws and bilateral
agreements, the Ambassador said.

Tenth Party Congress

12. (SBU) The Ambassador turned to the subject of next
year's tenth Party Congress, the foci of which reportedly
will be an evaluation of twenty years of Vietnam's "doi moi"
(renovation) policy and a look ahead to 2020 and Vietnam's
goal of being a modern nation. There has also been some
talk that the Party Congress will address the issue of
political doi moi (Ref B). Responding, Dzien said that the
CPV is actively preparing for the Congress. In terms of
economic reform, doi moi will be implemented in a more broad-
based manner to fully put in place a market economy with
socialist orientation. Although Vietnam has made efforts to
introduce a market economy, it is not yet a full-fledged
market economy with the proper laws and institutions in
place. This is something the Party Congress will address,
Dzien explained.

13. (SBU) In the State sector, Vietnam must speed up
equitization, abolish monopolies and remove the mechanism of
line ministries having oversight over enterprises, Dzien
continued. Vietnam needs a policy of developing a multi-
sector economy while encouraging the development of the
private sector. In the future, Vietnam will increase
assistance to the private sector to maximize its capacity to
meet demand. Vietnam must also work to speed up its
international integration, Dzien added.

14. (SBU) The meaning of "socialist orientation" is that
Vietnam's economic development must be linked to its
cultural and social development. For example, Vietnam must
try to ensure social equality for everyone, with a special
emphasis placed on poverty reduction, particularly in areas
heavily populated by ethnic minorities, Dzien emphasized.

15. (SBU) Political reform is another issue that is being
debated. The leading role of the Communist Party will
continue, but the Party will try to find a way to better
ensure democracy, including religious freedom. Vietnam must
ensure national unity among people of all social strata,
religions and ethnic backgrounds. Vietnam will also strive
to give Viet Kieu opportunities to learn about the Vietnam
of today and create opportunities for them to contribute to
Vietnam's development. There must also be efforts to
strengthen rule of law, and, on that basis, the Party must
consider reforming its "leadership methods." There is also
a discussion about enhancing the role of elective bodies and
mass organizations to make them more effective, Dzien

16. (SBU) Finding a balance between the goal of maintaining
the CPV as the leading political force and strengthening
democracy is an admirable, but difficult, goal, the
Ambassador said. Clearly, increasing rule of law versus
rule of man is vital for Vietnam's economic and overall
success. Our two systems are different, particularly in
terms of politics and governing. However, in the spirit of
mutual respect, the USG may have ideas we can share as
Vietnam moves forward with its plans, the Ambassador
offered. Dzien concluded by asking for the USG's help in
ensuring the success of APEC 2006 and the visit by the

17. (SBU) As he walked the Ambassador out, Dzien returned to
Ho Chi Minh's interest in democracy. Just days before
proclaiming Vietnam's independence in September 1945, Ho
asked his U.S. military "advisors" to obtain a copy of the
U.S. Declaration of Independence from the headquarters in
Kunming, China. The request went unanswered. Doing
research is a lot easier in the internet age, the Ambassador

18. (SBU) Comment: A youthful-looking 67-year old, Dzien
was relaxed and well briefed, particularly on the details of
Vietnam's WTO efforts. Although not a regular USG
interlocutor -- the last senior USG official to see him was
Ambassador Burghardt, for his farewell call -- Dzien has
reportedly played a behind-the-scenes role in helping to
strengthen bilateral ties. Significantly, Dzien was on tap
to travel to the United States to advance the Prime
Minister's visit (originally proposed for last year), the
delay of which ultimately prevented Dzien from going. End


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