Cablegate: Vietnam: Counterterrorism Action Group Meeting
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 08 HANOI 003099
STATE FOR S/CT; INL/AAE AND EAP/BCLTV
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PTER SNAR VM CTERR
SUBJECT: VIETNAM: COUNTERTERRORISM ACTION GROUP MEETING
HIGHLIGHTS CAPACITY BUILDING EFFORTS
1. (SBU) Summary: Local G-8 Counter Terrorism Action Group
(CTAG) Ambassadors were briefed by the Head of the
Counterterrorism Department of the Ministry of Public
Security, and later met privately with representatives from
Australia, the European Commission and the United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The official message was
that Vietnam is taking counterterrorism (CT) more seriously
than before, and is concerned that its proximity to higher
threat Southeast Asian countries (particularly Cambodia)
makes it vulnerable to attack by foreign terrorists crossing
its borders. Vietnam now has its own home-grown CT
strategy. CTAG partners carry out a range of CT and related
assistance programs. Vietnam would welcome further
assistance, including assistance in preparing for the 2006
APEC Leaders' Meeting, but lacks a comprehensive assessment
of its own assistance needs.
2. (SBU) Summary Continued: For the most part, this meeting
reaffirmed our 2004 assessment: that Vietnam has a low risk
of domestic indigenous terrorism, and that necessary CT
steps will focus on identifying foreign terrorists and
preventing possible attacks from outside Vietnam. The one
new wrinkle for the coming year is the APEC Summit, which
will require close coordination to ensure that proper event
security is maintained. End Summary.
3. (SBU) CTAG members in Hanoi gathered October 12 to assess
Vietnam's CT preparedness. In a departure from CTAG
meetings in 2003 and 2004, the G-8 Ambassadors were invited
to the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) for a detailed
briefing by Senior Colonel Hoang Kong Tu, Director of the
MPS Counterterrorism Department.
Meeting with MPS
4. (SBU) Senior Colonel Tu noted that terrorist activities
are increasing at an alarming rate in Southeast Asia.
Vietnam is aware that it remains vulnerable to international
terrorism, not least due to its proximity to countries such
as Cambodia, the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia, he
said. The activities of certain overseas Vietnamese, in
particular the "Government of Free Vietnam," are also cause
for concern. Tu said he is confident that Vietnam's own
indigenous Muslim population lives peacefully, although
those who travel on pilgrimages to Mecca or engage in
training courses provided by Islamic organizations might
become susceptible to terrorist influences. MPS has drawn
up its own CT strategy, which includes the following
elements: awareness raising and surveillance; information
and intelligence sharing; new CT infrastructure (including
the establishment of the CT Department in MPS); border
security; CT financing and anti-money laundering; explosive
materials; and, regional and international cooperation. He
emphasized that international assistance and cooperation,
particularly from G-8 countries, have had a decisive impact
on his country's efforts to build an effective strategy and
response to terrorism. Vietnam would welcome more capacity
building in this area, Tu stated.
5. (SBU) The G-8 participants largely agreed that Tu's
assessment was open, frank and refreshingly free from the
complacency that has characterized Vietnam's previous CT
assessments. The UK Ambassador saw it as a "forward step"
in Vietnam's readiness to engage internationally on CT.
Ambassador Marine said he believes that there are now other
options for engagement (however gradual) that were not
present 18 months ago. The Japanese DCM noted that Senior
Colonel Tu had been anxious to show that Vietnam was up to
date on CT matters.
6. (SBU) Participants agreed that the subsequent question
and answer session was disappointing. Senior Colonel Tu
answered few, if any, of the G-8's specific questions.
Ambassador Marine and the Australian Ambassador expressed
particular concern regarding the 2006 APEC Summit. The
Australian Ambassador further wondered if capitals will feel
they have the necessary assurances to be able to attend the
summit. The Ambassador noted that the United States hopes
that its bilateral confidence building measures with Vietnam
on CT will continue.
7. (SBU) France took a less positive view: the French
Ambassador said that Senior Colonel Tu's speech had been
carefully scripted, and the low-level MPS representation (a
Senior Colonel rather than the Major General we had been
promised) reflected the relative unimportance which the
Vietnamese attach to the subject. The Russian Ambassador
noted that in other countries the Ministry of Public
Security does not usually interact with foreigners. Thus,
the low level of representation might be because MPS is
"testing the water" and, if the meeting went well, they
could raise the level in future. A UK Poloff told Embassy
Poloff that MPS Deputy Minister Nguyen Khanh Toan later
spoke positively to the UK Ambassador about the CT
discussion with the G-8, which suggests that future meetings
might be held at a higher level.
8. (SBU) Participants agreed that Vietnam's own assessment
of the threat of terrorism is realistic. While there is
little domestic threat of terrorism in Vietnam, Vietnam is
at risk due to its proximity to terrorist organizations in
other countries (particularly Cambodia), who could exploit
vulnerabilities to carry out attacks on its territory. The
Canadian Ambassador believes the main message that came
through from Senior Colonel Tu's assessment was that
Cambodia is the "weak link" in Vietnam's CT defences.
CTAG Donor CT-related Training and Assistance Programs
9. (SBU) Participants in the CTAG meeting provided updates
on their CT-related assistance to Vietnam as follows:
The Canadian Ambassador reported that the Canadian Treasury
recently approved a USD 15 million annual CT Capacity
Building program (CTCB), over the next few years. Once
fully operational, the CTCB Program will provide technical
assistance and training to developing states, including
those in Southeast Asia. Canada hopes through the program
to be more actively engaged in areas where it is seen to
have particular value to add. Such areas of assistance
include first responder training; chemical incident
recovery; fraudulent document detection; aviation safety and
security; bomb disposal and intelligence-led policing.
- Bioterrorism expertise supplied to the Japanese Chemical,
Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) seminar held at
the Southeast Asia Regional Center for Counterterrorism
(SEARCCT) in July 2005.
Planned (all projects/funding to be confirmed as subject to
- APEC International Shipping and Port Facility Security
Code training (funding for APEC workshop);
- CBRN International First Responder (and Policy Making)
Training Program in Southeast Asia (minor equipment
component: coveralls and basic detectors). First phase early
- Placement of an RCMP officer at the Jakarta Center for Law
Enforcement Co-operation to deliver regional anti-terrorism
- Funding to the Asian Development Bank Co-operation Fund
for Regional Trade and Financial Security Initiative;
- Funding to International Maritime Organization for
technical assistance projects in Asia and the Americas; and,
- Funding to International Civil Aviation Organization for
technical assistance and training related to the Universal
Security Audit Program.
The French Ambassador reported that France provides
technical CT assistance to Vietnam primarily in the form of
training. Since 2003, France has conducted training courses
on counterterrorism and border control. It has also
established a special "intervention training unit," which
has been active over the past three years, focused on
handling crisis situations.
He noted that France hopes to convene a regional ASEAN
seminar on counterterrorism in 2004, but that the seminar
has not taken place due to reluctance on the part of the
Vietnamese authorities. Vietnam's reluctance might in part
stem from a fear that participating in such a visible
workshop (with Cambodia) could make Vietnam susceptible to
becoming a terrorist target, he speculated.
In 2006, France expects to finalize the establishment of a
special intervention unit that will specialize in crisis
negotiation. The French Ambassador also noted that, in a
recent discussion with the Standing Deputy Minister of
Public Security, the latter, in citing his ministry's
priorities for 2006, had placed counterterrorism at the top
of MPS's agenda.
The German Ambassador advised that, in the eyes of German
law enforcement and intelligence analysts, Vietnam is not a
priority threat country for terrorism. Germany is working
mostly on counternarcotics and organized crime issues, and
in that context financial crimes are often addressed. This
is an area where there is potential overlap with the CT
mission, since the Vietnamese banking system is weak and
thus vulnerable to exploitation by terrorist groups as well
as organized crime.
Germany has no concrete CT assistance programs for Vietnam,
but is planning to sign a bilateral anti-organized crime
agreement that will have a CT clause. In the last year,
Vietnam participated in an ASEM-related CT seminar with
other ASEAN countries in Berlin. Germany and Vietnam also
co-operated on information sharing on law enforcement
The Italian Ambassador noted that Italy does not have a
separate bilateral CT assistance program with Vietnam.
Nevertheless, Italy continues to train MPS officers on a
yearly basis on anti-drug trafficking issues. Italy is co-
financing multilateral programs in related fields such as a
UNODC anti-drug project, including training activities and a
media campaign, for a total commitment of USD 300,000, and a
UNICEF regional program aimed at fighting and preventing
human trafficking (total value 5 million euros, of which USD
800,000 is for Vietnam).
The Japanese DCM reported that in July 2005, Japan and
SEARCCT held a training course on "Prevention and Crisis
Management of Biological Terrorism," inviting officials in
charge of counter-biological terrorism from ASEAN countries,
China and the Republic of Korea. Experts from Japan, the
United States, France and WHO also participated.
In January 2006, Japan plans to hold a seminar in Tokyo on
the "Promotion of Accession to the 12 UN Counterterrorism
Conventions and Protocols." It has requested participating
countries from ASEAN and APEC to submit a report prior to
the seminar containing concrete action plans and time
schedules for taking the necessary domestic measures to
conclude and implement these international standards.
The Russian Ambassador reported that Russia provides several
annual training courses for groups of MPS officers. The
Federal Service of the Russian Federation for Narcotics
Traffic Control and Vietnam's MPS are expected in the near
future to conclude a bilateral agreement on cooperation in
fighting illegal traffic of narcotics, psychotropic
substances and precursors.
The Ambassador reported that the United States provides CT
assistance to Vietnam primarily by funding Vietnamese
participation in CT-related training at the International
Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, and through
military-to-military exchanges with an emphasis on CT
themes. The USG funds Vietnamese military (and civilian)
participation in training courses and conferences on a case-
In 2005, U.S. Military CT-related events at which Senior
Colonel-level or above Vietnamese military or civilian
representatives attended included:
- January 2005 Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies
(APCSS) Executive Course
- March 2005 APCSS Senior Executive Course
- April 2005 Symposium on East Asia Security (SEAS)
- August-September 2005 APCSS Comprehensive Security
Responses to Terrorism Course
- December 2005 APCSS Senior Executive Course on
The United States expects 2006 events, and Vietnamese
participation, to follow the 2005 pattern. The specific
course titles (and attendees) will differ slightly.
On the civilian side, USG counterterrorism-related
assistance is mostly in the form of training Ministry of
Public Security (MPS) and other civilian officials through
ILEA in Bangkok. The Ambassador said the United States
looks forward to expanding in-country training, based on
positive feedback from in-country sessions to date. He
observed that the geographic diversity of participants in
training courses to date is an improvement over earlier
courses where all the participants were from the major
In 2005, the ILEA schedule included eight course sessions
with direct CT relevance:
- Combating Transnational Terrorism (two sessions, January
- Post Blast Investigations (two sessions, June and October)
- Complex Financial Investigations
- Crime Scene Investigations
- Police Executive Role in Combating Terrorism
- Personnel and Facility Security
The United States paid for between two and five Government
officials (usually MPS or police officers from around the
country) to attend these courses, which lasted from one to
six weeks each.
In addition to these courses, the United States also funds a
larger-scale counter-narcotics project through the UN Office
of Drugs and Crime to create "Joint Interdiction Task Force
Units" in six border provinces. These inter-agency units
are mainly concerned with counter-narcotics activities, but
the effect they have on border security makes them relevant
to the counter-terrorism effort as well. This project
finishes in 2006.
The Ambassador reported that in 2006 the United States hopes
to be able to provide event security and VIP protection-
related assistance to help with counter-terrorism efforts
specific to the 2006 APEC Summit.
The United States is also exploring the possibility of a
maritime security assistance program to be carried out in
2006 by the U.S. Pacific Command in the context of U.S.
counter-narcotics assistance to Vietnam. The implementing
agency would the Joint Interagency Task Force - West (JIATF
The Australian Ambassador reported that Australia's own
experience as the victim of terrorism in the region means
that it places top priority on developing cooperative CT
arrangements in Southeast Asia, with a special focus on
Indonesia and the Philippines. The threat level in Vietnam
is low by comparison, but terrorists are adept at exploiting
opportunities in unexpected places, and Vietnam's border
with Cambodia in particular could allow relatively easy
entry for terrorists. Vietnam's hosting of APEC in 2006
will focus global attention on Vietnam, which might raise
its profile for regional terrorist networks looking for high-
profile targets over the coming year.
Australia's CT efforts with connection to Vietnam are as
- Follow-up to the February 2004 Bali Regional Ministerial
Meeting on Counterterrorism;
- Facilitating Vietnamese attendance at tailored courses at
the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC);
- Engagement via MFA and Ministry of Justice participation
in the Legal Issues Working Group (LIWG) activity focused on
improving CT legislation and compliance with UN instruments;
- Engagement via Counterterrorism Department of the MPS
participation in the Law Enforcement Working Group (LEWG)
stream, focused on improving regional CT-related law
enforcement cooperation and information sharing.
- Closer engagement with the Counterterrorism Department of
the MPS as Vietnam's national CT coordinating body;
- Observing Australia's national CT Exercise MERCURY' 05
- Engagement in the context of Vietnam's CT-related security
preparations for hosting APEC 2006, including offering
- Border integrity and entry-exit controls activity,
- English-language courses and capacity building (such
as fraud detection training) for MPS Immigration/
Vietnam Airlines/MND Border Guards staff;
- Provision of document fraud laboratories for Hanoi
and HCMC airports; and,
- Assistance with APEC Advanced Passenger Information
feasibility study, and other border assessment program
- Ongoing discussion of assistance for dedicated CT units of
the Ministry of National Defense; and,
- Intelligence exchange.
The EC reported that there is currently no EC assistance to
Vietnam in CT-related areas at bilateral level.
At the regional level, an EC-ASEAN border management program
is under preparation. A feasibility study for this program
has been launched in consultation with the ASEAN
Secretariat; its results will be available in early 2006.
The ASEAN Secretariat has proposed three regional centers:
the Jakarta Law Enforcement Center (JCLEC), the Southeast
Asia Regional Center for Counter-Terrorism in Malaysia
(SEACCT) and the International Law Enforcement Academy in
Bangkok (ILEA) as potential beneficiaries. The EC is
already supporting JCLEC under its bilateral co-operation
The EC representative noted that CT cooperation is also
discussed in the ASEM context. The Third ASEM Conference on
Counterterrorism will take place on November 14-15, 2005 in
Indonesia. It will provide another opportunity for further
developing counterterrorism cooperation between Europe and
The UNODC Resident Representative reported on UNODC's
continuing support to Vietnam on ratification and
implementation of all 12 international instruments against
terrorism, as well as the provision of technical assistance
to address other legal gaps.
UNODC-Vienna, through its Terrorism Prevention Branch, is
currently conducting a comparative study on "Anti-Terrorism
Legislative Developments in Seven Asian and Pacific
Countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia,
Philippines, Vietnam and Timor-Leste)," an examination of
the current status of anti-terrorist legal provisions,
focusing on existing gaps in laws and national practices of
ratification and implementation of the 12 CT conventions and
protocols. The study will support the implementation of the
decisions made at the Bali Ministerial Meeting, and will be
used as a background document for the second regional anti-
terrorism workshop planned in Tokyo in early 2006.
UNODC and The World Bank co-finance an anti-money laundering
advisor for Indochina (based at the UNODC Office in Hanoi,
covering Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam), and UNODC hopes to
provide varying other money laundering assistance to
- Providing AML/CFT advice;
- Training and technical assistance to support the
establishment, development and implementation of AML/CFT
systems, including the development of a national strategy
for effective implementation of Decree No.74/2005;
- Establishing of a financial intelligence unit ("Anti-
Money Laundering Information Center"); and,
- Improving capacities of the agencies concerned e.g.
police and prosecution.
The British Ambassador reported that in 2005, the United
Kingdom carried out the following CT-related assistance
- January 2005: One week Regional Crisis Management Course
at the Southeast Asia Center on Counterterrorism in Kuala
Lumpur to upgrade Vietnam' CT capacity in a regional
setting. Four senior level operational commanders from the
MPS CT Unit attended.
- April 2005: Two week Police Crisis management Course on CT
in the UK. Three senior-level commanders from MPS CT Unit
- June 2005: Visit to UK by Deputy Director of the General
Department of Police Major General Tran Van Thao and five
officers in conjunction with UNODC. The main theme was
police cooperation, but the visit also touched on CT work.
- October 2005: Three officers from MPS CT Unit attended a
"border management in the context of CT" course in
- Ongoing: English language training courses for MPS
officers. Over 75 officers trained so far.
Overlapping Assistance and Necessary Program Changes
10. (SBU) Participants agreed that where programs might
overlap (such as English training), the concerned parties
should coordinate closely to ensure that assistance is not
duplicated. Overall, however, duplication of efforts is not
considered a problem. There remains more need than donor
capacity, though a clearer idea of Vietnam's CT requirements
would help target assistance more effectively, and create
new opportunities for donors to cooperate with Vietnam.
Assessment of Vietnam's CT Needs
11. (SBU) The group agreed that strengthening Vietnam's
legal framework, law enforcement and border management
remain key targets for continued and enhanced CT assistance.
Other areas include: enhanced inter-ministry/agency co-
ordination; terrorist financing legislation and
implementation; and event security.
Participants shared the view that an effective assistance
strategy requires a formal assessment of Vietnam's needs.
Such an assessment has not yet been undertaken.
Agreement on Future Action
12. (SBU) Local CTAG members agreed that the UK Presidency,
in thanking the MPS for their presentation, should invite
MPS to consider drawing up a matrix of CT assistance needs
and a strategy for how to address them. This letter should
also underline the importance of starting to prepare for
APEC 2006 promptly and the willingness of certain G-8
members to provide assistance in this area.
13. (SBU) Comment: Despite the fact that Vietnam is
unanimously considered at low risk of terrorist attack
compared to its neighbors, all of our CTAG interlocutors are
closely engaged on the issue. We were not as concerned with
the level of MPS representation as France was, and agree
with the UK view that the MPS decision to send anyone to
brief the CTAG ambassadors was a good step forward.
Combined with regular contact between our security officers
and political officers, these high-level meetings serve to
maintain a consultation network on CT issues. For the most
part, this meeting reaffirmed our 2004 assessment: that
Vietnam has a low risk of domestic indigenous terrorism, and
that necessary CT steps will focus on identifying foreign
terrorists and preventing possible attacks from outside
Vietnam. Current USG assistance efforts in the
counternarcotics field, such as the Joint Task Force Units
operating in six border provinces, created with USG funding
and UNODC training, will increase Vietnamese security
forces' capacity in counterterrorism as well. The one new
wrinkle for the coming year is the APEC Summit, which will
require close coordination to ensure that proper event
security is maintained. End Comment.