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Cablegate: Mfa Outlines Bureaucratic Difficulties in Advancing

DE RUEHHI #2710/01 2971032
R 241032Z OCT 06




E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: A) Hanoi 2624; B) Hanoi 2663

1. (SBU) Summary: On October 23, the DCM met with MFA Americas
Department Deputy Director Nguyen Ba Hung to discuss the status of
bilateral issues in advance of the POTUS visit. The DCM reviewed
the list of as-yet unresolved official and commercial agreements
that need to be concluded, noting our desire to make the POTUS visit
as substantive as possible. Explaining the MFA's role as the
coordinator for POTUS deliverables, Hung outlined various
bureaucratic and political obstacles to finalizing agreements, as
well as the recent anxiety of some GVN leaders over U.S. support for
free speech and political change in Vietnam. Comment: With APEC
weeks away, the GVN is indeed overtaxed, but sustained USG pressure
across the board will help the GVN (and MFA) focus on our priorities
and nail down a good package of deliverables. End Summary.

2. (SBU) The DCM began the meeting by stressing our desire to
achieve a full range of substantive objectives for the POTUS visit.
The DCM urged the GVN to accelerate its efforts to reach agreements
in a number of areas, including Peace Corps, PSI, the nuclear fuel
removal at the Dalat reactor and the DEA-Ministry of Public Security
law enforcement MOU. He also mentioned the need for further
progress on religious freedom in advance of the decision on Country
of Particular Concern status. He noted progress needed to finalize
commercial agreements with U.S. businesses prior to the President's
visit and to sign a bilateral maritime agreement. Finally, he
discussed Administration efforts to work with members of Congress to
address issues which have led several senators to place holds on
PNTR legislation.

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Bureaucracy: Inter-Agency Coordination Slow

3. (SBU) In addition to commenting on several issues, Hung spoke
generally about the procedural difficulties of resolving these
matters in the GVN. While the MFA is working as coordinator to push
for progress with the various lead ministries, most of the issues
raised by the DCM are "beyond the control of the MFA," Hung
complained. He mentioned the Peace Corps and Dalat nuclear fuel
agreements, saying that the MFA is working hard but does not have
anything new to report. The MFA still wants to get as much as
possible done, but a lot of work remains.

4. (SBU) Hung mentioned bureaucratic difficulties related to
procedures put in place (since June) by the new administration of
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung, which require a higher degree of
formal inter-agency coordination; it is no longer possible for the
MFA to sign an agreement on behalf of another GVN ministry if the
MFA is not the lead GVN agency responsible for implementation of the
agreement. On the other hand, each ministry now has the authority
to enter into direct agreements with foreign partners, provided the
Prime Minister approves. (In this regard, Hung underscored that the
Ministry of Education and Training is authorized to complete a
government-to-government Peace Corps agreement with the United
States.) Regarding our list of pending bilateral agreements, Hung
said it is a question of getting it done "both your way and our
way," and not just "telling us what to do."

5. (SBU) In any event, we need to prepare for a successful visit
under any circumstances, Hung agreed. We want the relationship to
move forward and not focus on setbacks. Both sides should realize
this and work together. So many things are still unclear. PSI and
the Dalat nuclear fuel issues still "need much further work." The
MFA leadership meets almost daily with other senior leaders to push
these and other issues forward.

Politics: Hard-liners' Criticism Makes MFA's Job Harder
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) Noting that anti-government political activists had become
more active recently, Hung said that some GVN officials have been
working more intensely to "protect the political stability and
security of Vietnam." At this point, Hung raised the Ambassador's
statement, made during an October 2 interview with Radio Free Asia,
supporting the right of political free speech (Ref A). "Some
officials" in Vietnam are upset by these comments, he said.
Referring to the 2005 joint statement of POTUS and PM Phan Van Khai,
Hung praised President Bush's "positive statement" as reassuring GVN
leaders that the United States is not an enemy of the regime in
Vietnam. Now, these leaders "have to rethink how to integrate into
the world and maintain stability." The GVN will never accept regime
change, stated Hung. He stressed there is "concern and anxiety"
among the leaders and agencies involved. What is needed now is a
framework to build a partnership similar to the President's
statement in 2005, he concluded.

7. (SBU) The DCM responded that the bilateral relationship has grown
much over the past year. It is disappointing, he continued, that
the MFA would feel it necessary or appropriate to ask the Ambassador
to refrain from stating established U.S. policy supporting universal
political and human rights. The Ambassador has worked hard to

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strengthen relations between our countries, the DCM underlined.

8. (SBU) Hung said he raised the point because he needed to say it
"in order to avoid pressure from any [GVN] group that might want to
control what we accomplish" before the President's visit. He
described the difficulty the MFA has experienced in gaining
inter-agency approval for commitments related to, for example,
International Religious Freedom. Some in the GVN say, "out of CPC
today, in again tomorrow." Addressing this attitude has a lot to do
with trust building. At present, the GVN is asked to provide
information about the exact number of new churches, but, according
to Hung, this is very difficult. "Let them grow up naturally,
rather than as a response to pressure from the U.S. side." The DCM
responded that a more definite figure of expected church
registrations could serve as a goal for what the GVN expects to

Comment: We Should Keep Pushing

9. (SBU) With leaders from a score of economies arriving in Hanoi in
just over three weeks' time, the GVN inter-agency team is indeed
overstretched. Those pushing hardest will probably get the most.
The bureaucratic issues mentioned by Hung are real, but the pressure
to move quickly in advance of President Bush's arrival on November
17 is as well. We will continue to press forward on all fronts.


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