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Cablegate: Ambassador's Outcall with Vietnam's Minister Of

DE RUEHHI #1419/01 2211101
R 091101Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


(U) This cable is Sensitive but Unclassified. Not for

1. (SBU) On 30 July, Ambassador Marine conducted a final call
on Senior General Phung Quang Thanh, the Minister of Defense.
In their discussion, the Ambassador raised a wide range of
issues including high level visits, ship visits, fullest
possible accounting (MIA), International Military education
and training (IMET) and security assistance, Vietnam's
possible support to regional and UN peacekeeping operations,
bilateral cooperation on counter terrorism and legacy of war
issues like dioxin and unexploded ordinace (UXO).

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2. (SBU) On 30 July 2007 Ambassador, accompanied by the
Deputy Chief of Mission and the Defense Attache, conducted a
final call on Senior General Phung Quang Thanh, the Minister
of Defense.

3. (SBU) Minister Thanh warmly welcomed the Ambassador and
expressed his appreciation for his hard work during his term
of service in Vietnam. He stated that the Ambassador had
made many positive contributions and in this call he urged
the Ambassador to share his thoughts on anything of military
or non-military nature.

4. (SBU) The Ambassador congratulated the Senior General on
his recent promotion and noted this was an excellent time to
have been ambassador in Vietnam, as the environment was one
is which much could be accomplished. The Ambassador said
that there has been progress on a wide range of large and
small issues and numerous successes. He stated that during
his tenure both sides had worked effectively to grow the
military-military relationship in a measured, step-by-step
manner. He said that this was good for the past, but now the
time is right now for us to do more together.

5. (SBU) In reply, Minster Thanh agreed that both sides
should maintain a stabile, lasting friendship and develop
cooperation in various fields. He echoed the Ambassador's
view that it will be mutually beneficial to further develop
bilateral relations, especially the military to military
relationship. General Thanh stated that he had noted
improvements in education and training in Vietnam. The
United States has contributed to this progress, Minister
Thanh said, as well as to the economic development of Vietnam.
Defense cooperation has advanced as well, the Minister
continued, stating that this is very gratifying to him
personally. Thanh said that, should both sides increase
cooperation in defense areas, such as in the provision of
training equipment, then other areas also will benefit and
improve as well. He said that he personally greatly
appreciates cooperation with the United Sates --especially
since it is a nation with a strong economy and advanced
science and technology. "We can work together and promote
peace and stability in the region," he concluded.

Ship Visits

6. (SBU) The Ambassador then addressed a number of current
and future issues related to the bilateral military
relationship. One recent notable success was the visit by
the USS Peleliu, whose crew had treated more than 3,000
people during its recent visit. The Ambassador informed
Minister Thanh that he had visited the ship and the Peleliu
Partnership medical assistance missions in Danang. He noted
that Ministry of Health was the lead for that ship's visit,
but acknowledged that it could not have happened without the
strong support of the Ministry of Defense (MOD).

7. (SBU) On a related issue, the Ambassador said that the

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United States is now coordinating a visit to Danang by the
USNS Bruce Heezen in late October. The primary focus of this
mission will be to support the work of hydro-meteorological
scientists who work with Vietnam's forecasters on warnings
about impending typhoons, floods and warning for disasters.
The Ambassador noted that this is also important to Vietnam's
military, which has a role in search and rescue and disaster
relief missions. He added that Vietnam's Office for the
Search for Missing Persons (VNOSMP) will be invited to send
personnel to visit the USNS Heezen, since the United States
plans to use this ship, or ones just like it, for at-sea
searches in the fullest possible accounting effort in the
near future.

8. (SBU) In reply, Minster Thanh reaffirmed that MOD indeed
played a "strong role" in the visit by "the humanitarian
assistance ship" (referring to the USS Peleliu) and will
continue to do so for future ship visits in other areas.

Fullest Possible Accounting

9. (SBU) The Ambassador then turned to the issue of fullest
possible accounting for the missing from the Vietnam War. He
thanked Minster Thanh for MOD's recent help with the return
of an identification tag ("dog tag") to the family of a
marine who was lost in the war. The Ambassador said this was
a positive humanitarian gesture that truly comforted the
family. He noted how important this is to our leaders as
well and told the Minister that one U.S. Congressman even
called to thank him for this action. The Ambassador also
thanked the Minister for his Ministry's support and
cooperation in this humanitarian work.

10. (SBU) The Ambassador then reminded the Minister that the
United States will be assigning two MIA researchers to the
Embassy. These two researchers have been working for years
on temporary basis on the MIA mission in Vietnam. The
Ambassador noted that time is running out to access eye
witnesses and the older generations who are valuable
resources to help resolve the remaining cases. Having these
two researchers work full-time in the Embassy will enhance
our ability to continue to find answers for the families.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) already has the
accreditation request, but is waiting for MOD must approval.
The Ambassador asked for Minster Thanh's help with this
action so we can get our two researchers in-country now.

11. (SBU) Minister Thanh stated that the new personnel issue
of two assistant attaches would be handled through functional
organizations, in this case MOD's External Relations
Department (ERD), which will review the report from Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. He thanked the Ambassador for all of the
work the United States has done so far and hoped that the
United States could share more information and any records it
has with Vietnam counterparts who also are working to resolve
the missing cases from Vietnam's side.

Security Assistance

12. (SBU) The Ambassador next turned to the issue of
International Military Education and Training (IMET). He
noted that IMET budget has doubled each year for the past two
years and the IMET program is likely to continue to grow.
This will allow Vietnam's IMET to expand beyond English-
language training into other areas including search and
rescue and military medical training, areas that both sides
recognizes are valuable to Vietnam for its own forces and for
any future regional support work. The two officers who

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participated in English-language training and English-
language teacher training at Defense Language institute
English Language Center in Texas had done exceptionally well.
They were the top students in their class, the Ambassador
noted. This year IMET will provide a language lab to MOD and
these two officers will be able to put their training to good
use to expand the English-language skills of the Vietnam
officers and NCOs.

13. (SBU) The Ambassador reminded the Minister that President
Bush changed the policy on non-lethal Defense articles for
Vietnam in December 2006. We know that Vietnam desires U.S.-
sourced parts for helicopters and vehicles. However, the
United States can't move ahead on this issue until we have
the spare parts lists , or clear information on exactly what
Vietnam seeks. The U.S. Government had even worked on
provisions to support the Vietnam security assistance program
by considering recommendations for funds in Fiscal Year 2009,
but without any movement by the Government of Vietnam now, it
is difficult to move ahead with those plans. He recommended
that Vietnam not limit its security assistance focus to parts,
but also consider items like patrol boats, helicopters or
other items that could improve search and rescue or disaster
relief capabilities of the People's Army.

14. (SBU) In reply, the Minister thanked the United States
for providing English training for the two Vietnamese
officers and said that Vietnam looks forward to participation
in the medical, search and rescue and demining courses in the
future. He added that he is looking forward to touring the
new IMET-supported language lab when it is installed at the
military language school in the near future.

15. (SBU) Minister Thanh also acknowledged that Vietnam has
not yet provided information on desired non-lethal military
equipment to the Embassy, but said that MOD would soon
provide the list of requested spare parts for UH1 helicopters
and vehicles. He also said that MOD would like to continue
cooperation on equipment for search and rescue and
forecasting for floods, tsunami and disaster relief.

PKO, Counter Terrorism and 1206

16. (SBU) Ambassador then transitioned into the topic of
Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). Noting that Vietnam now is
poised to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council
(UNSC), he told Thanh that Vietnam also has some very capable
military forces, which could make valuable contributions to
UN and regional PKO or Humanitarian Assistance/ Disaster
Relief (HA/DR) missions. The Ambassador said that he knows
Vietnam's military is preparing for these kinds of operations
and that Vietnamese involvement is only a matter of time, but
the United States is prepared to assist Vietnam with training
programs to help prepare for these missions.

17. (SBU) In the area of counter terrorism, the Ambassador
said that the United States has programs to work with
friendly nations against the spread of terrorism. One of the
ways to do this was with the joint Department of State-
Department of Defense "1206" program. Vietnam should
consider working with the United States on this program,
which could provide equipment and training to counter the
growth of terrorism in the region.

18. (SBU) Minister Thanh replied that he shares the
Ambassador's hope that the United States and Vietnam can
share more information on counter terrorism. He also hopes
that the Defense Attaches from both nations could work on
this, and especially hoped that the Defense Attache office in
Hanoi would have close contacts with MOD. He said that

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Vietnam also wants to learn more about and develop the
dialogue on 1206 counter terrorism cooperation as well.

19. (SBU) On the other hand, Minister Thanh said that he
hopes that the United States will help with "terrorist cases"
of interst to Vietnam like that of Ly Tong, who illegally
flew an airplane into Vietnam in 2000, scattering thousands
leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City and Nguyen Huu Trang, who the
Minister said had been involved in planting explosive devices
in front to Vietnamese embassies in foreign countries.

20. (SBU) In the area of UN and regional peace operations,
the Minister said that Vietnam will participate in peace
operations "sooner or later, when conditions permit and when
the National Assembly has provided a legal basis for such

Dioxin and UXO

21. (SBU) The Ambassador thanked Minister Thanh for these
comments and then noted that even in the sensitive area of
dioxin/Agent Orange issues both sides have made real advances
in our dialogue. Discussions and professional exchanges on
this issue have been included in virtually all recent high
level visits, and Presidents Bush and Triet had commented
favorably on our cooperation and called for more. More
delegation and meetings have occurred to share research,
information and to expand cooperation. The Ambassador
mentioned his recent visit to Danang where he personally
observed one of the spots with dioxin contamination where the
GVN, the United States Government, and non-governmental
agencies including the Ford Foundation will combine forces to
address remediation needs. He also noted that the U.S.
Congress this year appropriated USD three million to deal
with issues related to dioxin in Vietnam.

22. (SBU) The Minister said that he greatly appreciated the
very good first steps on the Agent Orange/dioxin issue that
the United States had taken, including those efforts at the
Danang Airport. He also was grateful for the United States'
work in demining and noted that it is very important to make
the lands of Vietnam safe and to reclaim needed lands for
farming and development.

High Level Visits

23. (SBU) Minister Thanh remarked that the Ambassador would
be leaving shortly and the Minister wished him success and
good luck in future endeavors to strengthen U.S.-Vietnamese
relations. He noted that, during the Ambassador's service in
Hanoi, many high-level delegations had successfully occurred,
including those of then-Prime Minster Phan Van Khai,
President Nguyen Minh Triet, and even the then-Secretary of
Defense Rumsfeld. He advised the Ambassador to urge senior
officials to lead high level delegations to Vietnam. In this
way, they would learn the conditions here first hand and
build more understanding.

24. (SBU) Ambassador Marine thanked the Minister for these
comments and noted that there is a high level delegation from
the U.S. Congress planning a visit to Vietnam shortly. This
delegation's work focused on security issues and the
Ambassador hoped that the Minister could meet with this
delegation personally.

25. (SBU) The Ambassador also remarked that Minister Thanh
had not yet traveled to the Unites States. The Ambassador
encouraged the Minister to consider a trip to the United

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States to meet his counterpart, and said that the time was
right to begin planning for such a visit.

26. (SBU) Minister Thanh replied that he hoped Secretary of
Defense Gates could find a chance to visit Vietnam as well.
Minster Thanh noted that he hoped to visit the United States,
but at the right time. He again thanked the Ambassador and
his family for the dedicated service and contributions.

27. (SBU) COMMENT: The atmospherics were cordial and the
discussion friendly in this meeting. Minister Phung Quang
Thanh was uniformly positive in his comments. As in previous
meetings, he reaffirmed Vietnam's desire to develop and
expand bilateral military cooperation. On the other hand,
Minister Thanh also avoided endorsing any new initiatives, or
to committing the Ministry of Defense to any new areas of
cooperation. The MOD continues to have one of the most
cautious approaches to bilateral relations among all of the
Vietnam's ministries.


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