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Cablegate: Ambassador's Introductory Meeting with Vfm Le Van Bang

VZCZCXRO2869
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHHI #1682 2631405
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 201405Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6393
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 3719
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 001682

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR OBO/AM/EAP, OBO/REPM/AQD, EAP/EX, EAP/MLS

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

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S INTRODUCTORY MEETING WITH VFM LE VAN BANG


1.(SBU) Summary: In a meeting with Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang
on September 19, the Ambassador laid out his priorities and sought
Bang's engagement in identifying specific areas where progress on
human rights is possible. The Ambassador also pushed for progress
on a new embassy compound, which Bang agreed should be resolved as
soon as possible. End Summary.

2.(SBU) Vice Foreign Minister Le Van Bang, whose long career has
included postings as Ambassador to the United States and Ambassador
to the United Nations, opened by saying the U.S.-Vietnam
relationship was based on "strategic ties." Past negatives such as
the war had eventually led to positives such as the close
cooperation on POW/MIA issues. Vietnam's move from enemy to friend
with the United States could be an example for the DPRK, Burma or
even Iran, Bang said.

3. (SBU) The Ambassador agreed that our countries have forged strong
ties across many areas and that, as Vietnam prepares to take a
temporary seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC), we look forward to
cooperation in new areas. Bang said the UNSC seat would open new
opportunities for Vietnam to play an active and positive role and
that it will have to work closely with other countries to meet the
new challenges of this role.

4. (SBU) Bang said that Vietnamese Americans could be a bridge
between our countries. Noting that increasing our level of trade is
a priority, the ambassador said Vietnamese-Americans could also be
an important source of investment growth and cited President Triet's
engagement of this community during his visit to the United States
earlier this year as a positive step.

PROGRESS ON HUMAN RIGHTS A PRIORITY
-----------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Ambassador said progress on human rights is among his
top priorities. He noted that meeting with dissidents is a critical
part of his job, but that he wants to act in reaching out to the
various elements of Vietnamese society in a transparent manner in
the context of relations of mutual trust. Bang said the issues that
Vietnam and the United States have on human rights are due largely
to cultural and historic differences. Vietnam understands the
political pressure in the United States to address human rights
issues, Bang said, and much can be solved through cooperative
dialogue.

6. (SBU) On religious freedom, Bang said churches and pagodas have
an important role in teaching values which can be useful in the
fight against corruption. The Ambassador agreed, saying progress on
anti-corruption, transparency and good governance issues can also
help attract investment. Noting Bang's long experience of dealing
with the United States, the Ambassador asked for his assistance in
assessing where real progress could be made on human rights in
Vietnam. Bang said he welcomed this engagement and looked forward
to further discussion.

NEC: LET'S CLOSE THE DEAL
-------------------------

7. (SBU) The Ambassador said he understood that MFA was working hard
to come up with a counteroffer on the New Embassy Compound (NEC).
We need to be sure we are using the same language in our
negotiations, the Ambassador continued, and there are market price
estimates available which can be useful. Sooner is better to close
the deal, Bang said, as land prices are going up in an area that is
set to become a showpiece of Hanoi.

8. (SBU) Comment: Bang's role in the MFA hierarchy remains unclear
following the elevation of Phan Minh Binh to the vice ministerial
position supervising U.S. affairs. Bang appeared quite comfortable
discussing sensitive issues, and gave no indication in this meeting
that he is in the process of "fading away."

MICHALAK

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