Cablegate: Scenesetter for Assistant Secretary Mark Kimmitt and The

DE RUEHHI #1125/01 2751010
R 011010Z OCT 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

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1. (SBU) Embassy Hanoi looks forward to welcoming you to Vietnam.
Your visit for the first-ever U.S.-Vietnam defense dialogue will be
an important milestone in the growing U.S.-Vietnam relationship and
will highlight a broad area of bilateral defense and security
cooperation that has now begun to gather momentum in the wake of
Vietnamese Prime Minister Dung's June visit to Washington. 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 for the people of Vietnam. Vietnam's economic
successes have translated into greater international clout,
reflected in its current seat as a non-permanent member of the U.N.
Security Council. 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.

2. (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.
The Ministry of Defense is one of the ministries most suspicious of
the United States and of our deepening bilateral ties.

Defense and Security Talks

3. (SBU) The first-ever U.S.-Vietnam Defense and Security Talks (the
GVN is still hesitating on the official name for the talks) will be
a milestone in our defense relationship with the GVN. The GVN side
will likely be led by Vice Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh. The GVN
agreed to the U.S.-proposed agenda items, but we expect them to
raise additional items the day of the talks. At the working level,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacts have highlighted the complexity
of getting interagency agreement on issues and positions between
themselves, the Ministry of Defense, and the Ministry of Public
Security. The talks offer an opportunity to emphasize the
importance of interagency cooperation on a range of defense and
security issues, as well as to make progress on the specific agenda
items. Although not yet confirmed, we expect an opportunity for a
joint press availability following the close of the talks.

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 to 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, is attainable, but will require persistence and

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6. (SBU) One operational issue affecting our ability to charge ahead
with mil-mil programs is the GVN's refusal to grant a visa to our
incoming Defense Attache, Colonel Patrick Reardon. In June, the GVN
acknowledged Colonel Reardon's renunciation of his Vietnamese
citizenship, but ongoing debate between and within the Ministries of
Defense, Public Security and Foreign Affairs appear to have stymied
issuance of his visa or accreditation despite multiple high level
entreaties from the Embassy.

Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI)

7. (SBU) In recent years, the GVN has expressed increasing interest
in involvement in peacekeeping missions, especially those organized
under UN auspices. Vietnam's current seat on the UN Security
Council has given significant impetus to such increased
international engagement. Nonetheless, in order to fully engage in
future peacekeeping operations the GVN will have to do much more to
meet significant challenges: the lack of interoperability, the
paucity of English language speakers in the military, and
complications due to funding issues. Their participation in the
Global Peacekeeping 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 GPOI, through
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 at the Naval
Post-Graduate School. In discussions 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 elaborated on
this at the mil-mil Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD) in September,
but did not secure agreement from the GVN to accept the planning
team. Highlighting a visit from the planning team as the next step
in the GVN's participation in GPOI and securing GVN agreement to
accept and work with the team would be an important outcome of the
defense talks.

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, through 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 been actively involved in assisting
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 De-mining 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. In
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. (SBU) Your visit follows a very successful visit by Deputy
Assistant Secretary Stephen Ganyard in September to Hanoi and
several sites in central Vietnam. Looking ahead, we have encouraged
Vietnam to work with us to develop a national strategy to address
the complex and challenging problems associated with Explosive
Remnants of War (ERW). A national-level strategic framework is
essential both to maximize the impact of limited resources on the

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ground today, and to facilitate the growth of Vietnam's own planning
and management capacity in the future. Encouraging Vietnam's
commitment to a systematic, national approach will ultimately make
Vietnam's own mine action efforts more effective, a valuable
achievement that will make Vietnam more competitive in the
competition for increasingly scarce humanitarian assistance from
global donors.

Agent Orange/Dioxin

13. (SBU) 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
together 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. We
have made significant progress in addressing constructively what
remains an emotional issue for many Vietnamese who believe dioxin is
responsible for most of the birth defects in Vietnam; this was seen
most recently in the positive press coverage of the September
meeting of the bilateral Joint Advisory Committee (JAC) on Agent
Orange/Dioxin in Hanoi.

Fullest Possible Accounting

14. (SBU) Predating the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and
normal defense contacts, U.S. military and DoD elements continue
their efforts toward the fullest possible accounting of Americans
missing from the Vietnam Conflict. 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 92 Joint Field Activities (JFA), which incorporated
extensive research, interviews, analysis, and excavations in order
to accomplish its mission. Ultimately, JPAC's efforts in Southeast
Asia have resulted in accounting for 880 899 Americans previously
listed as MIA; 1766 1757 remain missing throughout Southeast Asia.

15. (SBU) From its inception, Det 2 forged good relations with its
GVN counterparts. In December 2006, the GVN gave approval for 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. Coordination to
complete the regulatory procedures for the use of such a vessel is
in progress, and JPAC hopes to implement this new search platform in
the coming fiscal year. However, JPAC continues to seek GVN
permission to conduct JFAs unrestricted search operations in the
Central Highlands - a politically sensitive region of the country.
While understanding the GVN's hesitancy regarding such access,
reinforcing the message that JPAC's mission is not political and
that such access is critical to putting this legacy issue behind us
would be useful for the GVN to hear from you.


16. (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
through the cumbersome GVN bureaucracy, the delay explained in part
by GVN concern with its capacity to carry out obligations under the
conventions. Two of the remaining conventions are reportedly in the
final stages of GVN approval, while the status of the other three
remains unclear.

Expanding U.S. Naval Ship Visits

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17. (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.

18. (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

19. (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

20. (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.

A Word on the Economy

21. (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 (27.9 percent year-on-year September), the
large current account deficit, and inefficient allocation of
resources, which is particularly obvious in the disproportionate
amount of state resources devoted to powerful State Owned
Enterprises (SOEs).

Human Rights Challenges

22. (SBU) Serious deficiencies related to human rights 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

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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
can assist in building a better human rights dialogue based on
mutual trust.

The China Factor

23. (SBU) While Vietnam's engagement with the United States will
continue to broaden, China necessarily constitutes Vietnam's most
important strategic preoccupation. This is not to say that Vietnam
is "choosing" China over the United States; 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 and necessary
commercial partner and former ally, it is also perceived as a
significant and frustrating constraint to Vietnam's freedom on

24. (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 deep 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.

Future Prospects

25. (SBU) The GVN recognizes the strategic importance of the United
States in the region and the world, but is not shy about criticizing
U.S. actions it perceives as outside the multilateral system. The
GVN routinely chafes over U.S. criticism of Vietnam's record of
human rights and religious freedom. 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.

26. (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 has also recently begun 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 condemns.

What You Can Expect

27. (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. The defense talks will continue
to help translate those good feelings into measurable
accomplishments in the defense and security relationship.

28. (SBU) We look forward to your visit and stand ready to do
everything we can to make your time in Vietnam as productive as


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