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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Deputy Assistant Secretary for Stephen

DE RUEHHI #0965/01 2310921
R 180921Z AUG 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

HANOI 00000965 001.2 OF 006


1. (SBU) Embassy Hanoi looks forward to welcoming you to Vietnam.
Your visit will be an important contribution to the growing
U.S.-Vietnam relationship and will highlight a broad area of
bilateral defense and security cooperation that is gathering
momentum in the wake of the Vietnamese Prime Minister's June visit
to Washington. Your visit also will allow us to highlight how
information provided by the Center for Bomb and Mine Disposal
Technology has helped us approach mine action in a more systematic
and transparent fashion. We are on the verge of an important
evolution in how humanitarian mine action is carried out in Vietnam.

2. (SBU) The U.S.-Vietnam bilateral relationship continues to
broaden and mature, in the process spurring economic, social and
technological development that has eased the path for a limited
expansion of personal freedom and expression for the people of
Vietnam. Vietnam's economic successes have translated into greater
international clout. Vietnam chaired the U.N. Security Council in
July, a major diplomatic achievement for the GVN. GVN leaders
understand that the United States plays a direct role in creating
the conditions for their nation's success and are committed to
advancing the bilateral relationship.

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3. (SBU) Our strengthening relations are also due to Vietnam's
realization that the United States is an important force in
maintaining a stable geopolitical environment in which even "small"
countries like Vietnam are assured their independence and freedom of
action. As such, Vietnam's leaders speak positively and
optimistically about the future of U.S.-Vietnam ties. Differences
over human rights remain, however, and lingering fears that the
United States supports the overthrow of the current regime continue
to complicate the relationship. China also looms as a factor
coloring Hanoi's reactions to our proposals in the security realm,
as discussed further below.

Gradual Progress in Defense Cooperation

4. (SBU) Defense relations have advanced at a measured pace, but
reflect the overall positive shift in the relationship. We conduct
professional military exchanges with the People's Army of Vietnam
(PAVN) in a limited but growing range of areas including military
law, military nursing, public affairs, search and rescue,
meteorological/ oceanographic (METOC) prediction, and disaster
preparedness. PAVN officers have been invited as observers to Cobra
Gold for the past four years and routinely attend U.S. Pacific
Command-sponsored multilateral conferences. Since 1997, over sixty
GVN officials, including more than thirty PAVN officers, have
attended courses and seminars at the Asia Pacific Center for
Security Studies (APCSS). PAVN also now sends observers to the
annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercises.

5. (SBU) Since 2003, U.S. Navy ships have made five port visits to
Vietnam, including most recently a November 14-18, 2007 visit by two
mine countermeasures ships, the USS Guardian and the USS Patriot, at
Haiphong port. In June, Vietnam participated in the Pacific
Partnership mission of the USNS Mercy. In 2005, Vietnam agreed to
participate in the International Military Education and Training
Program (IMET). In 2007, we accelerated the pace of IMET and
provided a language laboratory in Hanoi using IMET funds. In FY08,
IMET expanded mil-mil contacts through a U.S. mobile training team
visit for military medical techniques training. The GVN also
continues to send well-qualified candidates to English language
training and English language instructor training at the Defense
Language Institute (DLI). Reaching our full potential for closer
cooperation in defense activities, including multilateral
peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance efforts and attendance at U.S.
military schools will require time, persistence and patience.

Upcoming Defense Talks

6. (SBU) Planning continues for the first U.S.-VN Defense and
Security Talks to be held in Hanoi in October of this year. The GVN
knows that PM A/S Kimmitt will lead the U.S. side, but has yet to
designate the MFA official who will lead their team. The GVN is
currently reviewing our proposed agenda and your visit will be an
opportunity to follow up on any outstanding agenda items. The GVN
has asked that we not call attention to the talks in public fora,
citing regional political sensitivities, but has agreed to
announcements about the talks after the fact. We have agreed in
principle to a low key approach, but also noted that the talks were
highlighted publicly during PM Dung's visit.

HANOI 00000965 002.2 OF 006

Global Peace Operations Initiative

7. (SBU) Over past years, the GVN has expressed increasing interest
in the potential for involvement in peacekeeping missions,
especially those organized under UN auspices. Vietnam's recent UN
Security Council membership has given significant impetus to such
thinking. Nonetheless, the GVN will have to do much more to meet
the remaining challenges of the lack of interoperability, the
paucity of English language speakers in the military and
complications due to funding issues in order to fully engage in
future peacekeeping operations. Their participation in Global Peace
Operations Initiative (GPOI) is an important step in this direction.

8. (SBU) The Joint Statement from PM Dung's June visit to Washington
highlights Vietnam's agreement to participate in the GPOI through
participation in training courses and other peacekeeping operations
activities. The next step is crafting a "country plan" for Vietnam.
This will involve a "Program Design & Development Visit" to Hanoi
by a team from PACOM and the Center on Civil-Military Relations
(CCMR) at the Naval Post-Graduate School. In discussion with MOD
and MFA officials and the Embassy, the team will craft a GPOI
training plan tailored to Vietnam's current capabilities and
priorities. PACOM will elaborate at the mil-mil Bilateral Defense
Dialogue (BDD), planned for mid-September in Hawaii, with further
follow-up during the October Defense and Security Talks, as needed.
Post has previewed these steps with both MFA and MOD, but expects
that the GVN will not provide an official response until further
details are forthcoming at the September BDD.

Impacts of Remaining UXO

9. (SBU) In your meetings, you are likely to hear references to
"consequences of war" or "legacies of war" issues. This is the
catch-all term that the GVN applies to a myriad of problems,
including Agent Orange(AO)/Dioxin contamination, unexploded ordnance
(UXO) and land mines from the war era, and the incomplete recovery
of missing Vietnamese military personnel.

10. (SBU) Since 1989, USAID, with support from the Patrick J.
Leahy War Victims Fund (LWVF) and other sources, has provided over
USD 43 million to support NGOs and private voluntary organizations
to develop comprehensive programs for people with disabilities. In
addition, since 1993 the USG has actively assisted the people of
Vietnam in overcoming the social and economic impacts of remaining
UXO from the war. Vietnam was formally accepted as the 37th
participant in the U.S. Humanitarian Demining Program in June 2000,
and the USG is now the largest donor of humanitarian assistance for
mine action programs in Vietnam. The USG has invested over USD 37
million in a broad spectrum of programs not only to locate, remove
and destroy unexploded ordnance and landmines, but also to address
the UXO effects on health and livelihood of Vietnamese living in
affected areas.

11. (SBU) Today, various NGOs conduct UXO and land mine clearance,
risk education and victim rehabilitation. The USG has also donated a
significant quantity of equipment to the PAVN to assist efforts in
UXO and landmine clearance and return land to productive use. In
2006, the State Department provided USD 3.5 million to support UXO
action and demining activities in Vietnam, almost a third of which
went directly to PAVN in the form of donated demining equipment.
FY08, an additional USD 2.5 million will be provided to underwrite
mine action related activities in Vietnam. For FY08, Congress
directed that approximately $2.5 million be spent on demining
programs, a substantial increase from the $800,000 requested by the

12. Internally, we look forward to continuing our discussions on the
FY09 Humanitarian Mine Action Country Plan for Vietnam. We are
working as a team in approaching the complex and challenging problem
of Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) and their impact in Vietnam. The
development of a strategic framework that both maximizes the
immediate effective impact of limited resources on the ground, while
facilitating the growth of organic planning and management capacity
is a difficult balance to strike, but one which is critical to
Vietnam's ability to address the problem of ERW in the years to
come. Tackling these issues will require implementing mechanisms to
effect mine action in some of Vietnam's most densely contaminated
provinces (Quang Tri and Quang Binh) in accordance with a strategic
vision that prioritizes actual clearance activity over other related
mine action activities. However, support for training and
consultation activiQs to advance the development of management
capacity at the provincial and national level will also be crucial
to achieving a lasting positive impact on Vietnam's own mine action
capacity for many years to come.

HANOI 00000965 003.2 OF 006

13. The Mission Input to the FY09 Humanitarian Mine Action Country
Plan identified several key developments that suggest that the
Government of Vietnam is beginning to take a very hard look at
developing a national mine action center with defined management
responsibilities and authority for mine action throughout the
country. Moreover, recent information provided by the Center for
Bomb and Mine Disposal Technology (BOMICEN) suggest that the advice
we have been providing them over the last several years has finally
made an impression and that they now share our determination to
approach mine action in a more systematic and transparent fashion.
We are at the cusp of a significant evolution in the way that
humanitarian mine action is carried out in Vietnam, perhaps the most
significant development in a decade.

14. As such, we see significant value in funding a seminar/workshop
that brings consultative experts in the field of mine action
management from Cranfield University or James Madison University to
work with national and provincial stakeholders to identify
infrastructure, technology and TTPs required for the establishment
and operation of a true Vietnam Mine Action Center (VMAC) with real
management authority. Vietnam would also benefit from a guided
stakeholder case analysis of existing Land Impact Survey data for
the development of a regional mine action strategy to serve as a
road map for this nascent VMAC.

15. We have a key opportunity to taking our assistance to the next
level by providing the management expertise that can serve
ultimately to make Vietnam's own mine action efforts more efficient
and effective, while making Vietnam more competitive in the
competition of increasingly scarce humanitarian assistance from
global donors.

Agent Orange/Dioxin

16. While debate continues over the human impact of AO, recent
studies reveal that dioxin contamination is concentrated in
approximately 20 "hotspots," mostly former U.S. bases where AO was
stored. Areas subjected to heavy aerial spraying do not currently
have soil concentrations considered hazardous. Our engagement on
this issue has accomplished much, in both transforming the tone of
the dialogue and capacity building. Projects have included work at
the Danang airport as well as a USD 3 million Congressional
appropriation for "dioxin mitigation and health activities," which
USAID has begun to implement. The USG is continuing to work with
the GVN, UNDP, Ford Foundation and other NGOs to discuss the next
steps in the environmental remediation of three priority hotspots in
Danang, Hoa Binh and Phu Cat airfields.

Fullest Possible Accounting

17. (SBU) The re-establishment of diplomatic relations and normal
defense contacts continue today. U.S. military and DoD elements
efforts achieve the fullest possible accounting of Americans missing
from the Vietnam Conflict predate. Since 1988, the Joint POW/MIA
Accounting Command (JPAC), a USPACOM subordinate element, has
evolved to include forward Detachments in Vietnam, Laos, and
Thailand/Cambodia. With its Vietnam Detachment (Det 2), it has
completed 90 Joint Field Activities (JFA), which incorporated
extensive research, interviews, analysis, and excavations in order
to accomplish its mission. From its inception, Det 2 has forged
good relations with its GVN counterparts. In December, 2006 the GVN
approved the use of U.S. naval vessels to operate within their
territorial waters in order to enhance JPAC's underwater
investigations towards the identification of potential recovery
sites. Ultimately, JPAC's efforts in Southeast Asia have resulted
in accounting for 880 Americans previously listed as MIA; 1766
remain missing throughout Southeast Asia. Internal political
considerations compel senior Vietnamese leaders to ask us to pay as
much attention to their MIA as we do to ours.


18. (SBU) Vietnam says the right things about the threat of global
terrorism and has participated with us in modest cooperative
activities. During President Bush's visit in 2006, the President
and his Vietnamese counterpart pledged to increase cooperation to
halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and related
technology and materials in accordance with international and
national laws and each country's capacities. The United States
provides counterterrorism assistance to Vietnam by funding
Vietnamese participation in counterterrorism-related training at the
International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Bangkok, and through
military-to-military exchanges with an emphasis on counterterrorism
themes. Vietnam has signed eight out of thirteen UN terrorism
conventions. Approval of the remaining five is winding its way

HANOI 00000965 004.2 OF 006

through the cumbersome GVN bureaucracy, the delay explained in part
by GVN concern with its capacity to carry out obligations under the

Expanding U.S. Naval Ship Visits

19. (SBU) While we have regularized our SOP for regular ship visits
over recent years, the GVN has remained firm in limiting the
frequency of port visits by U.S. Navy vessels to one a year. This
restriction is frequently cited as being consistent with GVN laws
that regulate visits by foreign warships; however, some other
nations conduct more frequent port visits. While it may be
unproductive to demand more frequent port calls, we still seek to
persuade the GVN to permit more frequent access for limited,
technical calls (i.e., for refueling and replenishment). This would
support our overall goal of increasing routine access for U.S. Naval
vessels at Vietnam's ports, while not escalating the pace of
military contacts beyond a level that is comfortable for the GVN.
We also hope to continue asking the GVN to participate in fly-outs
and believe that the general positive trend in the relationship will
result in an acceptance at some point soon.

20. (SBU) Similarly, we hope to reverse the PAVN leadership's
reluctance to participate in distinguished visitor fly-outs to U.S.
Navy vessels transiting the South China Sea. To date, these have
been rebuffed due to concerns over the "appearance of Vietnam's
participation in joint exercises with the United States." This,
clearly, is code for limiting advances in the relationship to a pace
that does not discomfort the Chinese.

Humanitarian Assistance

21. (SBU) Since 1995, U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) programs have provided aid in legal reform, governance,
economic growth, HIV/AIDS, environmental protection and disaster
prevention. For FY 2007, total U.S. assistance from all agencies
was about USD 86.6 million, most of which has gone towards providing
health-related assistance, notably in the area of HIV/AIDS treatment
and prevention. Vietnam is one of fifteen countries in the
President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), with USD 65
million provided in 2007 to expand integrated HIV/AIDS prevention,
care and treatment programs. This figure includes approximately USD
3.1 million dollars for the Department of Defense (DOD)-managed
portion of PEPFAR HIV/AIDS programs with Vietnam's Ministry of

22. (SBU) Since 2000, DOD has supported a wide variety of Overseas
Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid (OHDCA) projects in Vietnam.
Through USPACOM, the U.S. Government has sponsored the construction
of eight medical clinics in Thua Thien-Hue Province, a primary
school in Quang Binh Province, and two centers for disabled children
in Quang Binh Province. Two additional humanitarian assistance
construction projects were completed in the summer of 2007 and
turned over to local authorities in Central Vietnam: a medical
clinic in Quang Binh Province, and a 10-room primary school in Quang
Tri Province. Additionally, USPACOM has facilitated multiple
donations of excess medical property to various medical facilities
throughout Vietnam. Five senior representatives of the Vietnam
People's Navy Medical Branch and Military Medical Department are in
the middle of a visit to the United States. These representatives
will take in U.S. Navy medical facilities in Southern California
such as the U.S. Navy Hospital Balboa, the Field Medical Training
Battalion, and U.S. Navy Hospital Camp Pendleton and will tour a
typical battalion aid station and medical facilities aboard U.S.
Navy ships.

A Word on the Economy

23. (SBU) After a decade of isolation and failed economic policies,
Vietnam is determined to catch up with the Asian tigers. Vietnam's
"doi moi" (renovation) program of economic reform, begun in 1986,
has set the country on a successful market economy path, with an
average growth rate of 7.5 percent over the past decade. The GVN
focuses on exports and foreign direct investment in its drive to
achieve middle-income status by 2010. The United States is
currently Vietnam's largest export market and third largest overall
trade partner. U.S. investors tell us the key challenges they face
in Vietnam are underdeveloped infrastructure, a shortage of skilled
workers and managers, and the considerable level of state
participation in the economy. For its part, the GVN is grappling
with issues of corruption, improving the legal environment, and
implementing its WTO commitments. Vietnam's current turmoil is
rooted in high inflation (27 percent year-on-year July), the large
current account deficit, and inefficient allocation of resources,
which is particularly obvious in the disproportionate amount of

HANOI 00000965 005.4 OF 006

state resources devoted to powerful State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).

Human Rights Challenges

24. (SBU) Serious human rights problems in Vietnam include lack of
freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.
One of our key objectives is to end the use of catch-all "national
security" provisions for the prosecution of peaceful dissent. We
continue to call for the release of all prisoners of conscience, but
where we see individuals expressing their political opinions, many
of our government interlocutors see "lawbreakers" trying to
destabilize the regime. The recent arrests and sackings of
Vietnamese reporters and editors in the wake of a corruption scandal
reveal the on-going battle within the GVN over the role of freedom
of the press. The continued existence of groups in the United
States that advocate regime change complicates human rights
engagement by providing ammunition to hard-liners who want to stoke
the fading paranoia that we are indeed still "the enemy."
Reassuring the GVN that the USG does not support separatist groups
will help build a human rights dialogue based on mutual trust.

The China Factor

25. (SBU) While Vietnam's engagement with the United States will
continue to broaden, China is necessarily Vietnam's most important
strategic preoccupation. This is not to say that Vietnam is
"choosing" China over the United States; the situation is much more
complex than that. Vietnam's leadership is sophisticated enough to
realize that relations with China and the United States do not
represent a zero sum game; it is possible to have good relations
with both. Each relationship also creates challenges, however.
While China constitutes a vital commercial partner and former ally,
it is also perceived as a significant and frustrating constraint to
Vietnam's freedom of action.

26. (SBU) Chinese bullying of foreign companies in an attempt to
compel them to cease oil and gas exploration efforts in the South
China Sea serves to remind Vietnamese officials that while the
Vietnamese may not approve of all U.S. policies, the same is
certainly true of Chinese actions. While progress has been made in
settling the land border, there is no commonality of views on
sovereignty issues regarding the South China Sea, known as the "East
Sea" to the Vietnamese. Hanoi is also "riding the tiger" with
regard to managing the deeply negative views toward China of many
Vietnamese. China is widely disliked and distrusted as a former
colonial master, and Beijing's actions in the Spratlys and Paracels
threaten to inflame those passions. Should Hanoi allow
unconstrained protests against the Chinese, however, it would appear
weak in the face of calls to action that it could not satisfy, as
well as risking Beijing's anger.

27. (SBU) The GVN is understandably cautious with regard to China's
potential reaction to enhancements in Vietnam's cooperation with the
United States. U.S.-Vietnam cooperation in the security field is
also constrained by an institutional conservatism born of concern
over "peaceful evolution" as a real threat to the regime, as well as
by an ingrained caution on the part of Vietnam's military in the
face of relative power calculations vis-a-vis China.

Future Prospects

28. (SBU) The GVN recognizes the strategic importance of the United
States in the region and the world, but is not shy about raising the
specter of "peaceful evolution," or to criticize U.S. actions it
perceives as outside the multilateral system. They routinely chafe
over U.S. criticism of Vietnam's human rights and religious freedom
record. Nonetheless, Vietnam's leaders are also pragmatic and
recognize that Vietnam's own continued economic well-being, growth
and security are, in large measure, inexorably tied to its
relationship with the United States.

29. (SBU) Vietnam has begun to explore opportunities within regional
organizations to increase joint efforts against terrorism,
narcotics, maritime piracy and other issues of shared concern.
Vietnam recently began joint sea patrols with other neighbors in the
Gulf of Thailand and has established hotlines to help facilitate
coordination along sea boundaries. Nevertheless, for historic and
foreign policy reasons, the GVN is generally reluctant to speak out
against its "traditional friends" such as North Korea and Iran when
they engage in behavior that the rest of the international community

What You Can Expect

HANOI 00000965 006.2 OF 006

30. (SBU) You can expect your interlocutors not only to be
articulate and well informed, but also to speak in terms generally
supportive of growth in the bilateral relationship. As noted above,
lingering suspicions still exist among conservatives in leadership
about the development of closer ties with the United States, but the
overall tenor is one of support and interest at a measured pace that
will not upset the GVN's calibrated attempts to maintain balance
among its other regional partners. Your trip to Hanoi will continue
to help translate those good feelings into measurable
accomplishments in the defense and security relationship. We look
forward to your visit and stand ready to do everything we can to
make your time in Vietnam as productive as possible.

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