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

DE RUEHHI #1801/01 2900253
P 170253Z OCT 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Ambassador, accompanied by Defense Attache,
met with Vietnam Minister of Defense, Senior General Phung
Quang Thanh, on 19 September 2007 for an introductory call.
After a warm welcome, Minister Thanh noted that Vietnam seeks
to increase defense cooperation with the United States, but
added that Vietnam believes defense cooperation between
countries should not have an impact on its relations with
third countries. He thanked the United States for its
de-mining and unexploded ordinance support, and noted Vietnam
continues to support the Fullest Possible Accounting (MIA)
humanitarian mission. He said that People,s Army,s limited
English skills make it difficult for Vietnam to perform
international activities and he thanked the U.S. for its IMET
support for English training. He hoped the U.S. could
continue to expand IMET. He stated that Vietnam will
participate in the USPACOM Chiefs of Defense (CHOD)
conference this year, and that he personally would attend the
next Shangri-La conference in Singapore. He welcomed a
December visit by the new Commander of U.S. Pacific Command.
He said that Vietnam,s National Assembly still needs to
approve any PAVN participation in a PKO, but added that
Vietnam is willing to participate in PKO is the future.
Ambassador thanked the Minister for his comments and also for
Vietnam,s support for MIA recovery. He noted that IMET
would expand in the upcoming years, and also said that there
are many more areas where both sides can strengthen
cooperation. Finally, he encouraged the Minister to consider
more security assistance.

2. (SBU) Ambassador, accompanied by Defense Attache, met with
Vietnam Minister of Defense, Senior General Phung Quang
Thanh, on 19 September 2007 for an introductory call.
Minister Thanh warmly welcomed the Ambassador and
congratulated him on his appointment. The Minister said that
he was confident that United States-Vietnam relations would
continue to grow. He said that both sides should increase
cooperation in a spirit of friendship. Ambassador thanked the
Minister for meeting with him and noted that Vietnam and the
United States already had developed a very positive
relationship. He also noted that some of the United States
closest allies had shared a history of conflict at some point
with the United States. Ambassador stated that his goal was
to work to ensure that United States ) Vietnam defense
relations would to continue to improve on the path to deeper
cooperation. Ambassador then asked Minister Thanh to share
some of his perspectives on the bilateral relationship.

Closer Cooperation, with Limits

3. (SBU) Minister Thanh noted that both Vietnam and the
United States have had ups and downs in their past. He said
today Vietnam has a foreign policy of friendship and
cooperation and seeks to develop reliable partners and to
make friends with every country. In this context, the
relationship between Vietnam and the United States has
already turned and now looks to the future. We cooperate
together with a focus on the economy, science and technology,
education and trade.

4. (SBU) He said that the government of Vietnam very much
understands the economic and military influence of the United
States, and wants to develop relations and learn the views of
the United States as well. Vietnam,s foreign policy
objectives are to develop friendship and cooperation with the
United States. He noted that there more than 1.5 million
ethnic Vietnamese people the United States. Vietnam hopes
that these people can be a bridge between our two countries
to improve understanding and relations.

5. (SBU) He continued that Vietnam has an eight percent

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growth rate for Gross Domestic Product (GDP); and Vietnam has
jointed the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well. These and
other accomplishments show that Vietnam is cooperating
together with the United States in many areas. Vietnam also
appreciates all of the Untied States, support for the
development of Vietnam. Developmental cooperation with the
United States is a positive aspect of the foreign policy
development of Vietnam

6. (SBU) Minister Thanh added the caveat that there are
differences between the United States and Vietnam, but these
are not as important as the friendship and cooperation. He
also noted that it is Vietnam,s view that defense
cooperation between countries should not have an impact on
its relations with third countries.

De-mining, UXO, Dioxin/Agent Orange, MIA

7. (SBU) The Minister noted that the United States has been
has been working closely and cooperative with Vietnam on
de-mining, unexploded ordnance (UXO) issues, and even with
Agent Orange (AO) cleanup of dioxins from the past war era.

8. (SBU) He added that Vietnam also continues to support the
Fullest Possible Accounting (MIA) humanitarian mission and he
also hoped that the USA could continue to provide Vietnam
with information that will help us resolve Vietnam,s MIA
cases as well.

IMET and Security Assistance

9. (SBU) Minister Thanh then turned to the issue of
International Military Education and Training (IMET). He
thanked the Ambassador and the United States for the IMET
program that has developed in Vietnam. He particularly noted
the language lab and equipment that will soon be delivered.
He also commented on the high value of the scholarships for
language study that have been extended to Vietnam,s military
officers (IMET-funded English language and English language
trainer courses). The Minister noted that limitations in the
force,s English language skills represent a difficulty for
Vietnam,s military to perform intentional cooperation
activities. He said that because of this Vietnam has asked
many countries to assist in English language training for
Vietnam,s officers.

10. (SBU) Minister Thanh also noted that Vietnam would like
to expand Vietnam,s IMET program to include courses in
science and technology areas. He concluded the point by
saying that if IMET or U.S. government could provide
scholarships in these areas it would be a tremendous benefit.

11. (SBU) Ambassador agreed with the Minister,s comments
about the value of education. He noted the importance of
education and said that securing an English language lab with
IMET for Vietnam was an essential step. He also recalled that
IMET training of Vietnam officers in the United States
already has been a plus. He noted that the first two
officers that Vietnam sent to the English language and
English language instructors course at Defense Language
Institute/ English language Center (DLI/ELC) in Texas
delivered high standards and were very successful in their
courses. He noted DLI/ELC is eagerly awaiting the next group
of Vietnam officers, and DLI hopes they will be as talented
as the first.

12. (SBU) The Ambassador continued that during this coming
year Vietnam would have IMET training for Search and Rescue

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(SAR), military medical courses and more English. In addition
Vietnam would have a chance to participate in several
humanitarian assistance training events as well. He said
that with programs like IMET, military relations were off to
a good start, but could even get better. There are many ways
for defense relations to grow even more.

13. (SBU) Ambassador noted that both sides had expanded
contacts and interaction on the human side, but also could
expand cooperation on the material side as well. He noted
that Ministry of Defense had just submitted two Letters of
Request for spare parts. He welcomed that action and said
that the changes in United States defense security
cooperation policy meant that many more options were
available to Vietnam. He encouraged the Minister to take
these new opportunities to promote the security assistance
relationship with the United States in a way that could help
Vietnam and enhance our relationship.

14. (SBU) Minister Thanh thanked the ambassador for his
comments and stated that Vietnam also would like to continue
to explore more options with IMET as well. He hoped that IMET
could be expanded to allow scholarships (course funding) for
officers to study military medical and SAR and science and
technology topics. He also hoped that the United States could
provide support to promote the FMS system with Vietnam for
security assistance cooperation.

Senior Leader Visits

15. (SBU) Ambassador turned to the topic of senior leader
visits. He appreciated Minister Thanh,s support to the Chief
of Staff Army and the Commander, United States Army of the
Pacific,s Pacific Army Chiefs Conference in Sydney in
August. Ambassador noted that the attendance by a Deputy
Chief of the General Staff was a very opportunity for he and
all the participants to exchange professional views and
develop relationships that can enable better cooperation in
the region. The Ambassador then expressed his hope that the
Chief of the General Staff for the People,s Army could
follow up on this success by attending the Chiefs of Defense
Conference in Honolulu at the end of October. He said that
this conference, which would be hosted by the Commander of
the Pacific Command and would likely include the Chairman of
the Joint Chiefs of Staff and would be another valuable
opportunity for Vietnam and for the region.

16. (SBU) Ambassador noted that the new Commander of the
Pacific Command was hoping for an opportunity to visit
Vietnam soon and ambassador hoped that this could occur.
Finally ambassador inquired about Minister Thanh,s own plans
and reminded him that he was welcome and should consider a
visit the United States as well.

17. (SBU) On the issue of senior leader visits, Minister
Thanh said that Vietnam supports a regional peaceful
environment as Minister of Defense he have accepted many
senior leader visits from the United States including the
previous Commander of PACOM. Minister Thanh said that he
would continue to welcome all of these types of visits,
including by the new PACOM Commander in December.

18. (SBU) Minister Thanh then said that he would send a
high-ranking officer to the CHOD conference this year, and it
would be a Deputy Chief of the General Staff. He himself now
planned to go the next annual Defense Ministers gathering at
the Shang-ri La conference in Singapore.

19. (SBU) Minister Thanh then noted that Vietnam &owes8 the
United States a visit since only one Minister of Defense has

HANOI 00001801 004 OF 004

visited the United States, but two U.S. Secretaries of
Defense have visited Vietnam. He said that it is likely that
he will visit the United States before the Ambassador leaves
Vietnam. Minister Thanh followed himself up by adding that he
certainly would visit the United States before his own term
of office as Minister of Defense is over in 2011.

Peace Keeping Operation

20. (SBU) Ambassador then inquired about Vietnam,s current
bid for a seat on the United Nation Security Council (UNSC)
for the2008-2009 session. He asked how the Minister viewed
participation in regional or UN Peace Keeping Operation (PKO)
missions in the context of the new UNCS responsibilities.

21. (SBU) Minister Thanh responded that he believes Vietnam
is likely to be UNSC member for the 2008-2009 session. He
said this is a strong indication of Vietnam,s growing
prominence in the region and Vietnam,s increasing
involvement in word issues as well. At present he said that
Vietnam conducts exchanges about PKO with a variety of
nations. PKO is an area in which Ministry of Defense is
still developing its expertise. He noted that Vietnam,s
National Assembly still would have to address legal aspects
of PAVN participation in a PKO.

22. (SBU) Minister Thanh said this is a step there expand our
capability to do more and expand cooperation. He noted that
in the past Vietnam,s military had experience in Laos and
Cambodia with international missions to help the Laos and
Cambodian peoples. However, now in a time of peace the PAVN
is closely managed by the National Assembly. He wrapped up
the point by saying that Vietnam is willing to participate in
PKO is the future.

23. (SBU) He concluded the meeting by thanking the Ambassador
and by saying that during Ambassador,s time in Vietnam he
will gain a deep understating on the development and
conditions in Viet Nam including on issues like religious
freedom. In addition, he added that during Ambassador,s time
in Vietnam he have the opportunity to visit military basses
far and near and to see first to understanding the friendship
and cooperative sprit of the people of Vietnam He will work
close both together for the two nation,s interests.

24 (SBU) Comment: The meeting with Minister Thanh was very
positive. He was receptive to increased contacts and expanded
areas for cooperation, but also was frank about limits
defense relations faced when Vietnam deals with other
countries, foremost among them being China. His comments
about PKO suggest that Vietnam,s military is still far from
ready to participate in any UN PKO, but Vietnam military
leaders still feel comfortable moving at a deliberate pace to
gain that capability.

© Scoop Media

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