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Cablegate: Tour D'horizon with Mfa Vice Minister

O 151019Z DEC 08


E.O. 12958: N/A

Ref: a) Hanoi 1344 b) Hanoi 1341 c) Hanoi 1352 d) Hanoi 1048


1. (SBU) Summary: In what we hope will be a regular monthly
exchange, the Ambassador raised UNSC Security Council Resolutions on
Somalia (septel), Vietnamese membership in the Trans Pacific
Partnership, human rights, adoption, the Megaports Initiative and
our proposed MOU on civilian nuclear power with Vice Minister of
Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh. Minh made another pitch for GSP for
Vietnam and urged the U.S. to respond "as soon as possible" to
recent Vietnamese overtures on the NEC and HCMC Consular District.
Minh said a decision on where and when the next ASEAN Summit would
be held would be made at the 12/18 ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting;
Vietnam is hoping it will be in early January or early February in
Jakarta. End Summary.

Operational Issues
2. (SBU) On December 12, the Ambassador, accompanied by DCM, met
with Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh, accompanied by
Americas Division Deputy Director General Le Huy Hoang and the
America Desk officer. The Ambassador opened the meeting by thanking
the Vice Minister for recent progress on the NEC, Ho Chi Minh City
consular district limits (Ref A) and visa for Hanoi's new DATT.
Minh said he hoped for a U.S. response on the consular district "the
sooner the better." President Bush and Prime Minister Dung had
talked again about a new Vietnamese Consulate in Houston on the
margins of the APEC Leaders Meeting, "so we are under pressure to
open this soon." Minh complained somewhat disingenuously that
Embassy and Consulate officials' recent meetings with dissidents in
Tran Binh province complicated intra-Ministerial discussion of the
HCMC Consulate's consular district. The Ambassador responded
forcefully that, as usual, the Embassy and Consulate had complied
with all GVN requirements and advised provincial authorities of
scheduled meetings.

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3. (SBU) On the NEC, Minh, appearing not to have been well briefed
on the DCM's conversation with the Director General of the America's
Division on the NEC (Ref B), made another pitch for the USG to
permit the GVN to purchase land with freehold title for its Embassy
and consulates. The Ambassador reiterated the U.S. commitment to

Trade Issues
4. (SBU) Minh tried to suggest a linkage between Vietnam joining
the Trans Pacific Partnership and the U.S. granting Vietnam GSP, but
the Ambassador quickly responded that TPP membership was in
Vietnam's interest and that U.S. law required improvements in
Vietnamese labor rights before Vietnam would be eligible for GSP.
The Ambassador urged Vietnam to resolve issues on U.S. beef imports
before Senator Baucus arrives in Vietnam December 15. Minh did not
appear to be well briefed on the issue made no promises.

Conoco Philips
5. (SBU) In response to MFA questions, the Ambassador clarified
that Conoco Philips had not yet made a decision about divesting from
its joint venture with BP and PetroVietnam. He noted, however,
concerns shared by many U.S. investors in the energy sector about
wildly fluctuating tax and tariff rates and problems with contract
sanctity which had a negative effect on the investment climate in
the sector.

Human Rights
6. (SBU) The Ambassador noted with concern that in the last three
months at least 12 political dissidents, many affiliated with Bloc
8406, have been arrested. Minh responded perfunctorily, "they have
violated Vietnamese law." The Ambassador also noted troubling
developments in the area of press freedom: the conviction of two
award-winning journalists who reported on the PMU-18 corruption
scandal; the sacking of many editors, even at the Communist
Party-managed newspaper of the Vietnam Fatherland Front; the
conviction of blogger Dieu Cay on what appear to be politically
motivated tax evasion charges; and a draft press law that would
restrict electronic media, including bloggers.

Nuclear Cooperation MOU
7. (SBU) Noting that the Ministry of Science and Technology had
only received comments from two of the seven ministries from which
it requested input prior to Vice Prime Minister Hai's trip to
Washington last month (Ref C), the Ambassador asked Minh's help to
expedite Vietnamese approval of our proposed MOU on Civilian Nuclear
Cooperation as a precursor to a Section 123 Agreement. Though he
had previously noted likely MFA support for the MOU during an August
discussion with the State Department Special Envoy for Nuclear
Cooperation Ambassador Jackie Wolcott (Ref D), Minh did not appear
to be well briefed on the issue, but again promised MFA support.

Security Issues
8. (SBU) The Ambassador told Minh the USG looks forward to working
with the newly-established Vietnam Bomb and Mine Action Center
(VBMAC). He noted that although the US was interested in providing
further assistance on this war legacy issue, Vietnam's failure to
develop and share a national demining plan limited our ability to do
so. "Developing national plans is the easiest thing to do in
Vietnam," Minh joked, promising to work toward closer cooperation.
The Ambassador also thanked Minh for the warm reception the
Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam offered the Asia Pacific Center for
Security Studies and noted their plans to jointly host a workshop on
international peacekeeping in Spring 09. After the Ambassador
commented on the success of the U.S. Department of Energy's
Megaports delegation's visit to Vietnam, Minh said Vietnam Customs
had provided the MFA our draft Megaports MOU for review. The
Ambassador expressed U.S. interest in increasing bilateral
commercial cooperation in the area of defense and security and noted
that an American firm was among the finalists for the Ministry of
Defense's satellite communications project.

9. (SBU) The Ambassador asked for the MFA to arrange the briefing
on Vietnams plans to join the Hague Convention on Adoptions
requested by the 11 Ambassadors in Hanoi with interest in
international adoptions in Vietnam. He offered U.S. assistance as
Vietnam works to accede to the Convention and stressed our
willingness to begin discussions on a bilateral adoption agreement
if Vietnam is interested.




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