Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with President Triet Focuses On

DE RUEHHI #1352/01 2131408
R 011408Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


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1. (SBU) Summary: In his July 31 farewell call on Vietnam's
President Nguyen Minh Triet, the Ambassador noted the significant
progress in bilateral economic and commercial ties as well as
increased USG support for the GVN's reform efforts, while cautioning
that important human rights concerns remain. There is room to
increase our cooperation on education, the Ambassador said, in part
by establishing a Peace Corps program in Vietnam. The Ambassador
sought Triet's support for a new U.S. embassy building in Hanoi -
Triet agreed to ask the relevant agencies to facilitate this. The
Ambassador and Triet addressed human rights at length. Triet agreed
that an ongoing dialogue is vital to addressing the issue, and said
Vietnam was "hurt" by high-level USG meetings with dissidents. The
Ambassador acknowledged that Vietnam's treatment of land protesters
was more lenient that some reports in the overseas press, and noted
the importance of allowing Mission Vietnam officers access to
information on the ground. The Ambassador underscored that Vietnam
needed greater transparency, however, including through press
freedoms, to effectively ensure that observers understand the
situation here. End Summary.


2. (SBU) In his fifty minute farewell call with Ambassador Marine on
July 31, President Nguyen Minh Triet said he was sorry to say
goodbye, noting the great advancements in U.S.-Vietnam ties during
the Ambassador's three-year tenure. The Ambassador agreed that
there has been significant progress on many fronts, noting that only
six years ago the bilateral trade agreement came into effect and now
the United States is Vietnam's biggest market. Our economic ties
have created a strong base which we continue to grow, the Ambassador
said, but there are other areas where our relations have not reached
their full potential.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that the U.S. Government has increased
the amount of grants to Vietnam from USD 50 million when he took his
post three years ago to over USD 95 million at present. Those funds
support the STAR program to support Vietnam's ongoing government
reforms, buy drugs for people with AIDS and help Vietnam fight Avian
Influenza. These funds also support efforts to address legacy
issues from the war: unexploded ordinance and now some environmental
issues related to dioxin. Triet said Vietnam is thankful for U.S.
assistance in these areas, and added that Vietnam is also
cooperating with the United States on recovering its soldiers
mission in action.

4. (SBU) A strong, stable Vietnam is vital to U.S. interests in this
part of the world, the Ambassador said. With Vietnam likely to join
the UN Security Council as a nonpermanent member in 2008, we will
have to deepen our dialogue to deal with issues like North Korea,
Burma and Darfur. The Ambassador noted that President Bush has
raised issues related to Iran's nuclear program with Triet in the
White House last June. This would be another issue on which we will
be sharing information, the Ambassador told Triet.

5. (SBU) To facilitate our expanded ties, the Ambassador said that
we may be formally proposing that we open a consulate in Danang in
the future, and that we understand the GVN wants to open more
consulates in the U.S. - this is what should happen as our ties
deepen. We urgently need a new U.S. embassy building in Hanoi, the
Ambassador stressed - just as Vietnam needs a new embassy building
in Washington. At this point, we need a counter-offer from the GVN;
simply saying our initial offer was too low does not advance the
process. Triet said he "totally agreed" on the need for a new
embassy and would ask the relevant agencies to move forward on this.

--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (SBU) Noting that Vietnamese leaders are working to improve the
education system, the Ambassador said that we are helping, and can
do more. He mentioned our thriving Fulbright program and the
Vietnam Education Foundation. The number of Vietnamese students at
all levels studying in the States is up 25 percent over last year,
but still only around 4,500 - that number could easily be doubled or
tripled, the Ambassador told Triet. Private American universities
are also setting up partnerships in Vietnam, the Ambassador noted, a
trend we should try to reinforce.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that one of the obstacles to increased
educational exchanges is the lack of English language ability, and
we continue to hope we can establish a Peace Corps program in
Vietnam, which could help address this problem. President Triet
said "the direction to establish a Peace Corps program in Vietnam is
set," and all that remains is the concrete implementation of the
program. Triet went on that language ability is not the only issue;

HANOI 00001352 002.2 OF 003

the cost of an education in the United States is also high for
Vietnamese and a barrier for seeking opportunities there. The
Ambassador suggested that the Fulbright program could expand if the
Vietnamese government is willing to provide some financial support.
With more U.S. institutions setting up operations in Vietnam, the
cost of the programs will be cheaper than study in the United
States. and should be an important area of possible emphasis, the
Ambassador said.

8. (SBU) Triet agreed that we have had great achievements in the
relationship; in just a few days he will be welcoming to Vietnam
representatives of some major corporations with whom he met during
his recent visit to the U.S. In other areas we have obstacles
remaining, but if we work together we can overcome these. President
Bush said he had committed USD three million for Agent Orange
cleanup efforts and this was a good start, Triet noted. The
Ambassador agreed we must work together to make these efforts a
success - we have a solid foundation on the environmental issues but
more must be done on the human health side and both are important.


9. (SBU) The Ambassador raised democracy and human rights issues
several times during the discussion, underscoring that we need to
discus our differences frankly and constructively. The Ambassador
recalled that President Triet told President Bush during his recent
visit to the United States that dialogue in this area is very
important. We were encouraged by the positive GVN response to
Senator Patrick Leahy's March letter to Triet outlining interest by
the U.S. Congress in expanding our cooperation in promoting the rule
of law and good governance. We now need to translate this consensus
into concrete efforts, which could deal, for example, with
corruption and accountability and other items high on the GVN's

10. (SBU) Triet recalled that he had discussed human rights and
democracy with President Bush as well as members of Congress. In
these discussions, he had pointed out that Vietnam had suffered a
long history of war, during which human rights did not exist and the
people lived in misery. Now the GVN fully understands human rights
and their importance. This does not, however, mean that persons
would be allowed to break the law and go unpunished. Triet
acknowledged that there is a gap between U.S. and Vietnamese law on
this subject, adding that Vietnam's laws need to be improved, and
stated that further dialogue is needed in order that we understand
each other. Triet then recalled that, shortly before his own visit
to Washington, President Bush met with four people called
"dissidents." This was not a problem, Triet said, but then after
his visit the NSC also met with an additional dissident. "It hurts
us," Triet asserted, calling again for direct dialogue "so we can
work together on this issue on a very fair and candid basis." You
can see all the churches in Vietnam are open and people are free to
worship, Triet said.

11. (SBU) The Ambassador agreed that there is a need to deepen our
understanding of each other's positions. He said that it is normal
for the President and members of his NSC staff to meet with
individuals holding a range of views. We look forward to the day
when the GVN will be more open to listening to its critics.
Listening does not mean the GVN necessarily does what its critics
want, but it should give them an opportunity to express their views.
Openness will make Vietnam stronger, he told Triet.


12. (SBU) Responding to the Ambassador's point, Triet indicated that
the GVN understands the value of listening to those with complaints.
Citing the recent demonstrations in Ho Chi Minh City regarding land
issues, Triet said that Vietnamese leaders had instructed provincial
officials to meet with the protesters, resolve their concerns and
convince them to go home. There are some who say we oppressed these
people, Triet said, but the fact protests were allowed to last for
many weeks proves otherwise. Even in the United States, people must
ask permission to stage demonstrations and abide by time limits.

13. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that officers from the Embassy and
our Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City had followed the land protests
closely. Because we have been able to interact with a range of
individuals, U.S. policy makers understand how the GVN approached
the HCMC demonstrations, and that some of the accusations of the GVN
posted on the internet were not accurate. The Ambassador noted that
a small group of people may still be detained, and we would like the
GVN to engage in a dialogue about their cases. The Ambassador also
noted that Vietnam would benefit from a strong and free media, which
can also be an ally in getting out the word about changes in

HANOI 00001352 003.2 OF 003

Vietnam, as well as helping the GVN improve governance overall.

14. (SBU) The Ambassador concluded that his most important job in
Vietnam has been strengthening mutual understanding between our two
peoples and that he leaves knowing the people of Vietnam understand
that the United States wants a strong, independent, open Vietnam.
To build these same ties in the United States will take outreach to
the Vietnamese community there, the Ambassador said. President
Triet's outreach during his recent visit to the United States was
seen as very successful, the Ambassador said, and he encouraged
President Triet to continue this process, including during another
visit the United States later during his tenure.


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