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Cablegate: Second Joint Advisory Committee On Agent Orange and Dioxin

VZCZCXRO2966
RR RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1476/01 2291751
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 171751Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6126
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3555
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//USDP/ISA/AP/ES//
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J00/J005/J006/J01LA/J06/J5//
RHEHNSC/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001476

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, EAP/EP, EAP/RSP, EAP/PD, OES/PCI
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR ANE, G/ENV
STATE PASS TO EPA/OIA (DENNIS CUNNINGHAM AND MARK KASMAN)
STATE PASS TO EPA/ORD (KEVIN TEICHMAN)
STATE PASS TO OGHA/HHS (STIEGER/VALDEZ/HICKEY)
CDC FOR OGHA (BLOUT/MCCALL) AND NCEH (THOMAS SINKS)
DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE (THOMAS SHUBERT AND WILLIAM VAN HOUTEN)
HHS PASS TO FIC/NIH (GLASS) AND NIEHS/NIH (DAVID SCHWARTZ)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL SENV TBIO KPAO VM
SUBJECT: Second Joint Advisory Committee on Agent Orange and Dioxin

REF: HANOI 1235

1. (SBU) Summary. The second U.S.-Vietnam Joint Advisory Committee
(JAC) on the health and environmental effects of Agent Orange (AO)
and dioxin reviewed the significant cooperation on environmental and
health issues between the two sides since the first JAC in 2006,
particularly related to the ongoing remediation of dioxin "hot
spots" at the former U.S. air base in Danang. JAC members discussed
a detailed list of possible U.S. technical assistance to the
Government of Vietnam (GVN) on dioxin-related issues. U.S. JAC
members emphasized the need for credible, science-based analysis of
dioxin-related issues and urged their GVN counterparts to focus on
possible dioxin-related health effects as part of broader public
health sector interventions. Differing from earlier, acrimonious
exchanges between the two countries on this issue, the two
delegations built a positive and cooperative atmosphere for possible
future joint technical discussions and actions. Subsequently, the
JAC members conducted a site visit of the Danang airport hotspot and
discussed environmental activities in the area. End Summary.

Second JAC
----------

2. (SBU) The second meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Joint Advisory
Committee (JAC) met in Hanoi on August 14-15. The JAC is a body
created under a 2002 cooperative agreement, but the first meeting
was held last June. It is designed to be a forum for members to
discuss the scientific aspects of the dioxin issue with the goal of
providing policy makers of the two governments with sound,
science-based advice. U.S. members came from EPA, CDC, HHS, DOD (as
represented by the DATT) and State (as represented by ESTH).
Vietnamese participants came from the coordinating body (Office 33)
based in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the MOD,
the MFA and a number of scientific institutions. (Note: See
reftel. for details on the history of the JAC and earlier
cooperative efforts.)

U.S. Members Advocate Sound Science
-----------------------------------

3. (SBU) Dr. Kevin Teichman, Acting Deputy Assistant Administrator
for Science at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and
the head of the U.S. delegation, underscored in his introductory
remarks that the JAC is not a policy-making body. He defined the
JAC's primary roles for this meeting as providing scientific advice
on the remediation of dioxin contaminated sites in Vietnam and on
health programs in communities near these sites, with the goal of
supplying the best available scientific information and
recommendations to inform governmental decisions on these topics.
The U.S. delegation urged the GVN to consider ways to reduce and
prevent exposures and advocated focusing available resources on
improving public health, such as adapting prevention strategies to
promote healthy birth outcomes by improving nutrition and reducing
exposures to pollution sources, including viral and chemical
exposures.

GVN Agrees on Science; Still Focused on Dioxin Exposure
--------------------------------------------- ----------

4. (SBU) Dr. Le Ke Son, head of the Vietnamese delegation, and the
Director General of GVN office responsible for Agent Orange and
dioxin issues (Office 33), emphasized the importance the GVN places
on the JAC and stated that the GVN participants will brief the Prime
Minister on its progress. The Vietnamese delegation agreed on the
need for strong science to back up environmental remediation
projects. However, while the Vietnamese delegation acknowledged the
importance of broad-based health care interventions, the GVN
continued to emphasize the need to respond to diseases and handicaps
they believe are specific to dioxin exposure.

Significant Progress
--------------------

5. (SBU) The JAC detailed significant progress over the past year
on environmental and health cooperation. In particular, the
U.S.-supported environmental analysis at the Danang airfield formed
the basis for successful GVN efforts to attract internal funding for

HANOI 00001476 002 OF 002


remediation efforts and to coordinate international assistance with
groups such as the Ford Foundation. Dr. Son expressed his strong
satisfaction with environmental progress, but advocated for greater
cooperation (read: U.S. assistance) on health issues.

Potential Future Cooperation
----------------------------

6. (SBU) The JAC proposed a number of environmental, health, and
capacity building measures for the next year and suggested a
subsequent meeting in 2008 to again review progress. Both
delegations noted that the development and implementation of
scientifically robust plans would allow Vietnam to attract resources
from additional sources. The proposed environmental projects
reflect the continued GVN desire to focus on remediation at Danang,
which the GVN could then use as a model for future remediation
efforts. The JAC urged health cooperation to reduce dioxin
exposure, while sharing scientific information on how to conduct
more general tracking of birth defects using an international
classification system. The JAC also expressed its willingness to
provide science-based advice to policy makers to determine how to
best implement programs funded by the USD 3 million recently
appropriated by the U.S. Congress to support environmental
remediation and associated health activities to affected
communities, as well as funding from the broader donor community
(which to date has included the Ford Foundation and UNDP, and likely
soon will include UNICEF, Atlantic Philanthropies and the Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundation.)

Danang Visit
------------

7. (SBU) At the conclusion of the JAC working meeting, the JAC
members conducted a site visit of the Danang airport hotspot and
discussed environmental activities. Senior Colonel Nguyen Tu Binh,
commander of the Danang Airport management board, who had received
Ambassador Marine for a site visit on July 17, greeted the U.S.
delegation. The U.S. delegation visited the former mixing and
loading area, former storage site, Sen Lake (which receives runoff
from the mixing and loading areas) and a second sub-hotspot area
along the southern area of the airport recently identified during a
June DOD technical workshop. Despite the GVN's assurances to the
contrary, the group witnessed human habitation along the lake and
within the boundaries of the airport facility.

Comment
-------

8. (SBU) The JAC provides an excellent opportunity to further
"normalize" the agent orange and dioxin issue as one of many areas
of environmental and health cooperation between the United States
and Vietnam, as opposed to a continuing obstacle to further
development of ties between the two nations. The JAC focuses
attention on technical cooperation geared towards forward-looking
environmental solutions and science-based consideration of possible
health impacts of Agent Orange and dioxin, instead of emotional
Vietnamese claims of U.S. moral and financial responsibility for a
broad universe of "agent orange victims." Participants of both the
2006 and 2007 JAC sessions unanimously commented on the much-reduced
level of rhetoric and the friendly atmosphere created during this
year's session. U.S. participants are finalizing the minutes of the
meeting, and will - as promised - make policy recommendations with
regard to future cooperation with the Vietnam.

ALOISI

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