Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign

DE RUEHHI #1382/01 2180754
R 060754Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


HANOI 00001382 001.2 OF 003

(U) This cable is sensitive but unclassified. Not for internet

1. (SBU) Summary: During the August 2 farewell lunch he hosted for
Ambassador and Mrs. Marine, Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem noted the many achievements in
U.S.-Vietnam relations during the Ambassador's tenure. The
Ambassador agreed that improvements had been made in many areas, but
pushed for greater progress on areas of ongoing concern such as
human rights and legal and economic reform as well as specific
issues including the Peace Corps, a New Embassy Compound, and a
possible new consulate in Danang. DPM Khiem said his ministry would
seek to be helpful in addressing these issues. Turning to Vietnam's
future role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council,
DPM Khiem declared that the GVN agrees with the position of the
United States on many of the key issues facing the UNSC. End


2. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem
hosted a farewell lunch for Ambassador and Mrs. Marine on August 2.
DPM Khiem cited the great progress that has been made in
U.S.-Vietnam relations during the Ambassador's tenure, notably the
granting of PNTR to Vietnam and the removal of Vietnam from the
Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list. He also highlighted the
signing of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with
the United States in June 2007. The Ambassador agreed that the
"economic side of the relationship" is going well, although the
United States would like to see an improved balance of trade. There
are significant achievements, the Ambassador said, but they are only
the beginning. The United States supports a strong, vibrant, and
independent Vietnam as a key to peace and security in the region, he

3. (SBU) There are many areas where we can work together, including
programs to deepen democracy, expand the rule of law and improve the
quality of governance, the Ambassador told DPM Khiem. We are
encouraged that DPM Khiem responded positively to the March letter
from Senator Patrick Leahy to President Triet in this connection,
and now is the time to transform that willingness and commitment
into concrete actions.

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

4. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that, during his recent visit to
Washington, President Nguyen Minh Triet made the point that we must
continue our dialogue on human rights. We agree, the Ambassador
said, and hope to address human rights and related issues in ways
that are effective. As President Bush made clear, friends of the
United States must understand that we have a principled commitment
to call for the recognition and adherence to human rights. The DPM
noted President Triet was frank in his discussion of the issue with
President Bush, and the Ambassador agreed that, while they did not
come to a full agreement on the issue, their frank exchange of views
was beneficial.

5. (SBU) The Ambassador observed that Vietnam and the United States
have different views on press freedom, freedom of speech and freedom
of assembly. The Ambassador noted he recently sent a letter to Vice
Foreign Minister Le Van Bang regarding two groups of people of
interest to the United States: prisoners convinced of "crimes"
related to their peaceful expression of political views who are
eligible for amnesty and another group who have been detained for
extended periods without being charged. The laws that these
individuals have been charged with violating are "not appropriate
for the Vietnam of today," said the Ambassador, and we hope the GVN
will release these individuals soon.

7. (SBU) The Ambassador also raised four cases of particular concern
by name: Catholic priest Nguyen Van Ly, two lawyers: Nguye Van Dai
and Le Thi Cong Nhan, and a journalist, Ms. Tran Khai Thanh Thuy.
Ly, Dai and Nhan have been tried and sentenced to long prison terms
for actions that we see as expressions of their basic human rights,
the Ambassador said. We urge the GVN to release them as soon as
possible, in accordance with Vietnamese law.

8. (SBU) Ms. Thuy's "crime" was postings on the internet calling for
greater freedom in Vietnam. We understand she has been held without
charge since April, and we hope she can be treated leniently under
Vietnamese law. Neither she nor any of the other individuals whose
cases we have raised have called for violence; they have only
advocated political change, which is something we believe people
should be allowed to do, the Ambassador stressed.

HANOI 00001382 002.2 OF 003

9. (SBU) Those on the lists passed to the MFA are not necessarily
the high-profile Vietnamese prisoners who attract attention around
the world, the Ambassador noted. Even for those who are not
eligible for amnesty, allowing families and lawyers to visit them
freely is both the right thing to do and would lead to a boost to
Vietnam's image. The Ambassador also asked Khiem to help arrange
access by U.S. Embassy staff to prisoners of concern, including Ly,
Dai, and Nhan. DPM Khiem said he would discuss these issues with
the Ministry of Public Security (MPS). The Ambassador encouraged
the DPM to do so, saying that he also intends to raise individual
cases and our general concerns directly with the MPS.


10. (SBU) The Ambassador told Khiem that, in his view, we are not
that far from agreement on opening a Peace Corps program in Vietnam.
A number of senior Vietnamese leaders have told him that they want
to see this happen, he noted. The problems appear when we attempt
to engage on technical details. The Ambassador said we would be
working with the Ministry of Education and Training on this issue,
and DPM Khiem said he would also try to move the process along on
the Vietnamese side.

11. (SBU) We have similar problems with regard to a New Embassy
Compound, the Ambassador told DPM Khiem; there has been much work by
both sides but we still have not closed a deal. We need, in
particular, a counter-offer on price from the Vietnamese side to
move towards an agreement. The DPM said he agreed that the United
States needs a new embassy that reflects the growing relationship.
The Ambassador added the Embassy is still adding staff, and thanked
the MFA for moving quickly to provide accreditation. Ultimately we
would like more of our diplomats to study Vietnamese in Hanoi and Ho
Chi Minh City, the Ambassador added, which will require Vietnam to
begin issuing visas to these students; the DPM said he supported
this idea.


12. (SBU) We are also seriously considering opening a consulate in
Danang, the Ambassador said, a small post to serve the important
central coast region that does not get the attention it deserves
from the United States. We would also welcome, in principle,
Vietnam's interest in opening new consulates in the United States.
DPM Khiem said Vietnam is considering changes, including possibly
moving its Consulate General in San Francisco to Los Angeles, and
may open new consulates in either Houston and Chicago. The
Ambassador said we will be happy to discuss the details when Vietnam
is ready.

13. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that in Vietnam we cover the
day-to-day work in the southern half of the country from our
Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Occasionally,
however, local officials interfere when consulate officers work
outside HCMC itself. This is an issue that also affects other
diplomatic missions in Vietnam and, while it has not so far been a
serious issue, it could become a major problem if consulate officers
were denied access to a region during a crisis or natural disaster.


14. (SBU) Turning to Vietnam's candidacy for a non-permament seat on
the UN Security Council, DPM Khiem said Vietnam has been preparing
for this role. The Ambassador noted the UNSC will be deeply engaged
on difficult issues such as North Korea, Iran, Burma and Sudan and
that we look forward to working closely with Hanoi in this arena.
Khiem responded that Vietnam's positions are actually quite close to
those of the United States on many major issues, such as dealing
with North Korea.

15. (SBU) One possible way to improve our understanding of these and
other issues could be joint studies on various topics by our offices
that do policy and planning, the DPM suggested. The Ambassador
agreed that having experts share ideas privately and informally
could be very useful over time. Improving the training of its
diplomats is a major priority of the MFA, DPM Khiem said, and this
could also involve exchanges with U.S. experts in that field.

16. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's question, the DPM said it
is likely that Vice Foreign Minister Le Cong Phung will take the job
as the next Ambassador to the United States despite issues with
Vietnam's age regulations preventing service beyond 60 at the vice

HANOI 00001382 003.2 OF 003

ministerial level. The government is trying to reinvigorate its
leadership, getting younger people into more senior positions, but
there must be exceptions to the rules. The Prime Minister is now
considering a recommendation by the MFA that the age limit for
ambassadors should be raised to 65 in certain circumstances.

17. (SBU) The Ambassador said our two nations have a good dialogue
on terrorism, though Vietnam could still do more to protect its
commercial banks from illicit use. The Global Initiative to Combat
Nuclear Terrorism launched by Presidents Bush and Putin now has 51
partner nations and we believe Vietnam should become a partner as
well. In addition, we are working to improve safety at Vietnam's
research reactor at Dalat by converting it from highly-enriched to
low-enriched uranium. We and the Russians are also willing to
remove spent uranium from the site at no cost, and we are discussing
this with the Ministry of Science and Technology. DPM Khiem
responded that Vietnam's policy is that nuclear technology should
only be used for peaceful purposes, so the GVN would like to
cooperate on this issue.


18. (SBU) On dioxin, the Ambassador said that, while we have made
much progress in broadening our bilateral dialogue on this issue
over three years, it is important now to find effective ways to
spend the USD three million recently appropriated by Congress in
order to produce concrete results. We will remain engaged in
helping people who have disabilities regardless of the cause, but
this should not be held out as an obligation or directly tied to
"Agent Orange." Similarly on unexploded ordance, we have a budget
of USD 3.6 million this year but that will decrease over time, so
the money must be used more efficiently and new donors must be

19. (SBU) DCM Khiem pointed out that we have seen great progress on
MIA issues. The Ambassador said this move was well received, and
noted the USNS Bruce Heezen will visit Danang in October for a
meteorological mission, but that we hope it can also contribute
eventually to the fullest accounting mission by demonstrating new
capabilities to conduct underwater searches.


20. (SBU) The Ambassador noted that he had met with Minister of
Defense Phung Quang Thanh earlier in the week, and they had agreed
that the relationship is moving in the right direction on mil-to-mil
issues. However, since President Bush decided in December 2006 that
Vietnam could buy nonlethal defense articles, no requests for
purchases have been received. In FY2009 there may be up to USD one
million available for military equipment-related grants, but we need
to show some activity to get things started. DPM Khiem said this
could be discussed in connection with a possible visit to the United
States by Defense Minister Thanh.


21. (SBU) Pham Gia Khiem, who has just been reappointed as Foreign
Minister, in addition to his position as deputy prime minister,
seems set to continue leading the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for
the immediate future. Reports of personnel changes, however, imply
that he will give up the subordinate position at some point in the
future. The DPM was in his usual form, jovial and focused, but not
in command of detail in all areas.


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