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Cablegate: Ambassador's Farewell Dinner with Vice Foreign Minister Le

VZCZCXRO1814
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1385/01 2181155
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 061155Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6005
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3472
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 001385

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS AND DRL/IRF

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREL PGOV CONS KIRF ECON VM

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S FAREWELL DINNER WITH VICE FOREIGN MINISTER LE
VAN BANG

HANOI 00001385 001.2 OF 003


1. (SBU) Summary: Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang and the
Ambassador discussed a wide range of issues during a cordial August
3 dinner. The Ambassador used the occasion to underscore U.S.
concerns concerned over governance and human rights, and raised the
cases of imprisoned individuals eligible for amnesty. The
Ambassador also noted slow progress on a new embassy compound and
establishment of a Peace Corps program, and pressed for improved GVN
response on consular access and improved control over the adoption
process. The GVN is still seeking a bilateral meeting with
President Bush at UNGA. Le Van Bang revealed that he is being
forced to retire "in a year or two" rather than serve as Vietnam's
ambassador in Beijing, and blames this turn of events on the
influence of the pro-China lobby within the elite here. End
Summary.

A LONG FRIENDHSIP, MANY ACHIEVEMENTS
------------------------------------

2. (SBU) Vice Minister Le Van Bang and his wife hosted a farewell
dinner for Ambassador and Mrs. Marine on August 3. Noting that he
had known the Ambassador since 1988, VM Bang said it had been a
wonderful opportunity to work with him in Vietnam over the past
three years and to see so much progress made in the bilateral
relationship. The Ambassador expressed his appreciation for the
work of the Vive Minister and his MFA staff in promoting the
bilateral relationship. He noted that it is a reflection of how
that relationship has expanded that he has had over 15 formal
farewell calls at the level of Vice Minister or above.

STILL SEEKING BILAT FOR PRIME MINISTER DZUNG
--------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) VM Bang said that Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign
Minister Pham Gia Khiem will accompany Prime Minister Dzung to the
United States for the upcoming UN General Assembly session. He
noted that Vietnam was seeking a meeting with President Bush on the
margins of UNGA, adding that he knew from his own experience as
Vietnam's UN Ambassador that this would be difficult, but not
impossible to arrange.

4. (SBU) Ambassador Marine said such a meeting would indeed be
difficult, given President Bush's tight schedule in New York. If
this or other bilateral meetings are held, however, these would be a
good opportunity to demonstrate concrete progress on issues such as
those raised by Senator Leahy in his March letter to Vietnam calling
for closer engagement on concrete efforts to enhance governance,
rule of law and anti-corruption efforts in Vietnam. If Vietnam does
not get things right on rule of law, the Ambassador told Bang, it
risks economic problems as investors go elsewhere.

5. (SBU) VM Bang said the GVN is studying the issue of rule of law
and the only issue is whether it will implement changes faster or
slower - to do it faster, it will need the help of friends like the
United States. In particular, Vietnam wishes to avoid a
"Philippines situation," in which endemic corruptions saps the
vitality of the economy. The Ambassador noted political aspects of
the problem, predicting that the Communist Party will lose the
support of the people if governance fails to improve. Improving
governance is in Vietnam's fundamental self-interest.

VIETNAM AS A MODEL FOR DEVELOPMENT
----------------------------------

6. (SBU) VM Bang said Vietnam wants its society to develop quickly,
but equitably. The Ambassador noted that in economic terms the
country is already "capitalist." In terms of models for
development, VM Bang said Vietnam is looking to Japan 30 years ago,
Korea 20 years ago or perhaps Singapore today. Vietnam did not want
to follow the development models of Thailand, the Philippines or
even Indonesia, which all suffer from "separatist issues." He added
that Vietnam had already, of course, rejected the paths being taken
by Burma and the DPRK.

7. (SBU) When Vietnam finally won its wars of liberation, the world
community did not appreciate its accomplishment, VM Bang said. Now
Vietnam hopes that its renewal of the country and its peaceful
development may serve as an example for developing countries in
Africa and Latin America. During a recent visit to multiple nations
in Latin America, the VM said, officials in Peru and Chile had
expressed their interest in attracting Vietnamese investment.
Perhaps in 10 years, he said, Vietnam could follow the South Korean
model of investment in other countries.

PROGRESS IN HIGHLANDS, NOT ON DEMOCRACY
---------------------------------------

8. (SBU) VM Bang said he had visited the Central Highlands for


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* Missing Section 002 *
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HANOI 00001385 003.2 OF 003


VM SUPPORTS REQUEST TO SCATTER AMCIT ASHES IN VIETNAM
--------------------------------------------- --------

16. (SBU) The Ambassador also raised the case of June Ward, the
widow of the late Dr. Larry Ward, who had requested that his ashes
be scattered in Vietnam near the clinic he built here as a
reflection of his love of the country. VM Bang said he had received
the Ambassador's letter on the issue and supported her request.

VM BANG TO RETIRE: A VICTIM OF PRO-CHINA ELEMENTS
--------------------------------------------- ----

17. (SBU) In response to the Ambassador's question, Vice Minister
Bang said that the rumors he will not be going to Beijing as
ambassador are true. The excuse is that he has exceeded the
mandatory age of 60 for retirement from the ranks of vice minister.
The reality is that others over 60, such as Vice Foreign Minister Le
Cong Phung, will probably not be forced out (Phung is expected to
become Vietnam's new ambassador to the United States later this
year). Bang blamed the decision on "pro-China elements" in the
leadership. Beijing was not happy that Hanoi was planning to send a
person so closely identified with the U.S.-Vietnam relationship,
Bang asserted, and Beijing allies in the Vietnamese government
engineered the decision. Probably as a face-saving gesture, Bang
will stay on the payroll for one or two more years. He hopes to be
engaged in strategic planning for the ministry.

COMMENT
-------

18. (SBU) The Prime Minister's recent decision to enforce retirement
age regulations is playing out in a number of ministries around
Hanoi. Many exceptions are being sought, but it appears that formal
approvals are being granted only slowly, if at all. As for Bang, he
is clearly deflated by the turn of events. He emphasized that,
while not being forcibly retired immediately, that he is turning
over the reigns of U.S.-Vietnam relations to Assistant Foreign
Minister Phan Binh Minh, who - along with Deputy Prime Minister and
Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem -- will accompany Prime Minister
Nguyen Tan Dzung to New York in September.

MARINE

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