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Cablegate: Gvn Deems First Defense Dialogue a Success

VZCZCXRO7944
RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHHI #1189 2910926
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170926Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8632
INFO RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH 5229
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHZS/ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS HANOI 001189

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

FOR EAP/MLS, PM/RSAT

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MARR MOPS PREL PGOV OTRA VM
SUBJECT: GVN DEEMS FIRST DEFENSE DIALOGUE A SUCCESS

Ref: Hanoi 1178

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a variety of sidebar conversations during and
following the first-ever U.S. Political Defense Dialogue in Hanoi
(reftel), Government of Vietnam (GVN) interlocutors indicated that
the talks went very well. While sensitivities on defense issues
remain, GVN participants affirmed that from their perspective, the
dialogue represented a significant step forward. The Vietnamese
came into the talks with a certain degree of apprehension, and were
impressed that the two sides were able to find common ground on
agenda items and hit the right notes in the discussions themselves.


2. (SBU) COMMENT: We agree. The Vietnamese side was engaged,
well-prepared, and eager to demonstrate that they took the talks
seriously. This constructive attitude was particularly striking
given that the talks represented the first time a GVN interagency
delegation was assembled at this level to present coordinated views
on defense relations and security cooperation with the United
States. The GVN's willingness to continue the talks as a yearly
event is by itself significant -- and was by no means a foregone
conclusion. To be sure, much hard work remains to translate the
positive atmospherics into tangible progress on, say, a joint search
and rescue exercise. And, as MPS comments on "sensitive issues" --
human rights -- demonstrate, the two sides still have trust to
build. Altogether, though, we concur that the talks mark a real
step forward and something on which to build. END SUMMARY AND
COMMENT.

3. (SBU) In sidebar conversations throughout the October 6
Political-Defense Dialogue, members of the GVN delegation expressed
enthusiasm for the talks, the first ever between the United States
and Vietnam, saying they were satisfied both with the topics covered
and the depth of the discussion. The U.S. presentations and
responses to GVN positions were additionally praised as being "on
target", and appropriate to the level of discussion. All agreed the
Dialogue represented a good start and would significantly deepen the
bilateral relationship in the defense area. Senior delegation
members Ministry of Defense (MOD) Senior Colonel Phan Thai Minh,
Deputy Director, Department of External Relations and Ministry of
Public Security (MPS) Senior Colonel Tam Chau, confirmed that the
success of this dialogue will certainly result in an annual
dialogue.

4. (SBU) Asked about the timing of the talks, Ministry of Defense
representative Colonel Nguyen Quang Vinh
Deputy Chief, Americas-Africa-Oceania Office, External Relations
Department explained that it had taken many gradual steps for the
GVN to reach sufficient internal agreement to hold formal talks at
this level, and opined that the GVN is now ready to "gradually"
strengthen the defense ties with the United States. Another MOD
representative Phan Thai Minh pointed out that the Vietnamese side
had itself had to make significant compromises to permit more than
one U.S. ship visit per year, explaining that Vietnamese law only
allows for one ship visit a year from any particular country.
(Note: The GVN determined the USNS Mercy visit did not count as a
U.S. ship visit given that the visit was hosted by the Ministry of
Health as a humanitarian mission. End note.)

5. (SBU) A somewhat discordant note was sounded by MPS Senior
Colonel Tam Chau, who emphasized that while the Dialogue went well,
much needs to be done to strengthen trust between the two countries.
Specifically, he referred to "more sensitive issues" -- MPS-speak
for human rights issues. More constructively, he expressed hope
that many of the non-traditional security issues raised by MPS
during the talks -- transnational crime, fighting terrorism, and
combating illicit drugs -- could be addressed in more depth in
future discussions.

PALMER

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