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Cablegate: (U) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's September 11, 2008

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OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1040/01 2560849
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 120849Z SEP 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8429
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH IMMEDIATE 5094
RUEHZS/ASEAN COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 001040

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OVIP NEGROPONTE JOHN PREL PGOV PHUM ETRD VM

SUBJECT: (U) Deputy Secretary Negroponte's September 11, 2008
conversation with Vietnam DPM/FM Pham Gia Khiem

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SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. FOR INTERNAL USG USE. NOT SUITABLE FOR
INTERNET POSTING.

1. (U) September 11, 2008; 0915; Hanoi, Vietnam.

2. (U) Participants:

U.S.
The Deputy Secretary
Ambassador Michael Michalak
DAS Scot Marciel
PolCouns Brian Aggeler
D Special Assistant Kaye Lee
D Special Assistant Ted Wittenstein
DPolCouns Mike Goldman (Notetaker)

VIETNAM
DPM/FM Pham Gia Khiem
VFM Pham Binh Minh
DG Americas Department Nguyen Ba Hung
Assistant Director Americas Department Le Chi Dung
MFA Desk Officer Tran Tan

3. (SBU) SUMMARY. Meeting September 11, the Deputy Secretary and
Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem
affirmed that, overall, U.S.-Vietnam relations continue to improve.
Despite differences on human rights and Vietnam's stance at the UNSC
on issues such as Georgia, the two sides have made substantial
progress, particularly in areas such as education, health, and
trade. The Deputy Secretary urged Vietnam to come to an agreement
on HCMC's consular district and emphasized that to do their jobs
properly, Embassy and Consulate officers must be able to meet with
persons from all strata of society, including those who might
disagree with the government. Ambassador Michalak encouraged the
GVN to establish a transparent mechanism to settle the ongoing
property dispute at Hanoi's Thai Ha parish. DPM/FM Khiem pressed
for movement on Vietnam's GSP and Market Economy status. END
SUMMARY.

-----------------------------
BILATERAL RELATIONS IMPROVING
-----------------------------

4. (SBU) Noting Vietnam's tremendous economic progress, the Deputy
Secretary remarked the country today would have been unrecognizable
when he first arrived in Saigon as a Second Secretary in 1964. The
Deputy Secretary and DPM/FM Khiem agreed that the bilateral
relationship has likewise improved, especially in areas such as
health, education, trade, and the recovery of MIA remains. The two
sides should work to deepen their exchanges on political and
security matters, the Deputy Secretary and DPM/FM Khiem affirmed,
pointing to annual port calls and the October visit of A/S Kimmitt
to inaugurate talks on political-military affairs. Khiem stated
that he looks forward to his meeting with Secretary Rice on the
margins of UNGA and hopes that the U.S. and Vietnam can use the
occasion to produce a "joint assessment" of the progress in
bilateral relations during the eight years of the Bush
administration.

-----------------------------------------
"FRIENDS TO ALL," BUT WHAT ABOUT GEORGIA?
-----------------------------------------

5. (SBU) The Deputy Secretary urged Vietnam to work more closely
with the United States at the UN Security Council, especially on
issues such as Georgia. Big countries should not treat their
smaller neighbors the way Russia has treated Georgia, the Deputy
Secretary emphasized. DPM/FM Khiem issued a standard recitation of
Vietnam's "friends to all" foreign policy, conceding only that Hanoi
remains concerned with the situation in Georgia.

--------------------------------------------- --------
HCMC CONSULAR OPERATIONS AND THE NEW EMBASSY COMPOUND
--------------------------------------------- --------

6. (SBU) Urged by the Deputy Secretary to make progress on
negotiations over the NEC property, DPM/FM Khiem affirmed that the
United States should have a "marvelous" embassy commensurate with
the two countries' increasingly robust diplomatic relations. He
offered to meet personally with U/S Kennedy in Hanoi to discuss the
NEC. For his part, Khiem requested that the State Department
facilitate the purchase of residential property in New York by
Vietnam's UN mission.

7. (SBU) The Deputy Secretary pressed Khiem to recognize HCMC's
consular district and to lift restrictions on consular operations
outside of Ho Chi Minh City. He stressed that it was absurd to

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expect Embassy officers from Hanoi to cover territory, such as the
Mekong Delta, that should naturally be the responsibility of the
HCMC consulate. Khiem suggested that the issue could be resolved
"step by step," but declined to go into specifics, noting that the
issue would be discussed in more detail during the Deputy
Secretary's afternoon meeting with the Prime Minister. Khiem
expressed optimism that Vietnam would soon be able to open a
consulate in Houston and the United States would have a consulate in
Danang.

-----------------------------------
HUMAN RIGHTS AND THE THAI HA PARISH
-----------------------------------

8. (SBU) The Deputy Secretary noted the importance of human rights
and religious freedom, mentioning that the recent human rights
dialogue with Vietnam had been very valuable. He emphasized that
Embassy and Consulate officers, like their diplomatic colleagues at
missions around the world, are committed to maintaining contact with
individuals and groups representing a wide spectrum of opinion.
These meetings are part of their normal work as diplomats and should
not be taken as evidence of hostile intent. To the contrary, the
United States is committed to looking for ways to strengthen ties
with Vietnam.

9. (SBU) DPM/FM Khiem insisted that ongoing protests over land
ownership at Thai Ha parish, as well as the government's response,
was not a religious issue, but rather a question of individuals
violating the law. He sought to assure the Deputy Secretary that
Vietnam remains committed to helping religious organizations
function and would assist groups find land for "genuine and
legitimate purposes." He said that Vietnam's land laws are
complicated, as is the history of land ownership, and decried the
fact that Thai Ha parishioners had taken action outside of
Vietnamese law. The Ambassador commented that this was not the
first time that the GVN had found itself involved in a land dispute
involving former church property (and it almost certainly wouldn't
be the last) and encouraged the government to establish a clear,
transparent mechanism for both sides to express their positions and
reach a reasonable solution.

-----------------------------
GSP AND MARKET ECONOMY STATUS
-----------------------------

10. (SBU) Citing Prime Minister Dung's June visit to Washington,
DPM/FM Khiem urged the United States to move forward in designating
Vietnam as a beneficiary under the Generalized System of Preferences
and in recognizing Vietnam's status as a market economy. The Deputy
Secretary and Ambassador responded that GSP was under serious
consideration, but that there remained work to be done on labor and
intellectual property rights, as outlined by the USTR. As for
Vietnam's potential status as a market economy, the U.S. side noted
that Secretary Gutierrez had recently sent a letter discussing the
establishment of a market economy working group.

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