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Cablegate: President Triet Assures Ambassador That Relations Good,

VZCZCXRO1141
OO RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHPB
DE RUEHHI #0848/01 2380639
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O R 260638Z AUG 09
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0028
INFO ASEAN REGIONAL FORUM COLLECTIVE
RUEHHI/AMEMBASSY HANOI
RUEHHM/AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 0001

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HANOI 000848

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM ECON ETRD BM VM
SUBJECT: President Triet Assures Ambassador that Relations Good,
Vietnam Remains Committed to Reform

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a cordial meeting August 18, State President
Nguyen Minh Triet assured the Ambassador that Vietnam's leadership
remained committed to deepening reform and viewed its relationship
with the United States as positive and improving. Noting that
Vietnam would chair ASEAN in 2010, Triet suggested that a
U.S.-ASEAN Summit could be held in Hanoi and encouraged President
Obama and Secretary Clinton to visit; he had little else to offer
on the subject of Vietnam's tenure as ASEAN chair. The Ambassador
agreed with Triet's upbeat assessment of bilateral relations,
adding that the U.S. Embassy could do more with increased staffing.
The Ambassador also urged Vietnam to press Burma to release Aung
San Suu Kyi, a subject that would surely arise during Senator Jim
Webb's August 19 meetings in Hanoi. President Triet and the
Ambassador expressed differing views on human rights, though both
pledged to continue dialogue. Triet voiced familiar positions on
Agent Orange and U.S. restrictions on catfish imports. END
SUMMARY.

Relations Good and Getting Better

---------------------------------

2. (SBU) Meeting August 18, the Ambassador and Vietnam's State
President Nguyen Minh Triet exchanged views on the overall state of
bilateral relations. The Ambassador noted that it was two years to
the day that he had presented his credentials to President Triet
and praised cooperative efforts in the areas of education, climate
change, and global and regional affairs. He said that the U.S.
Embassy could do even more if long-standing staffing requests were
met. Triet agreed that bilateral relations were on a positive
trajectory. He waxed nostalgic about his trip to the United States
in 2007 and praised as historic PM Dung's visit in 2008; he also
recalled fondly the 2006 visit to Hanoi of President Bush,
describing at some length the throngs of smiling well-wishers that
had greeted the U.S. President on his arrival. Stressing that
Vietnam would assume the ASEAN Chair in 2010, Triet said that Hanoi
would be delighted to host a U.S.-ASEAN summit and extended
invitations to President Obama and Secretary Clinton.

Deepening Doi Moi

-----------------

3. (SBU) Responding to a question about the 11th Party Congress in
2011, President Triet emphasized that the Communist Party remained
committed to its program of reform and opening ("renovation" or Doi
Moi). (Note: Fellow Politburo member, Hanoi Party Secretary Pham
Quang Nghi told the Ambassador nearly the same thing in their
meeting the week before. Reftel. End note.) Triet said that
going into 2011, particular effort would be made to deepening
Vietnam's international economic integration. Less convincingly,
Triet insisted the 11th Party Congress would further implement what
he called "socialist-oriented rule of law" through administrative
and judicial reform.

Burma and ASEAN

---------------

4. (SBU) Previewing the August 19 visit of Senator Jim Webb, the
Ambassador urged Vietnam to press Burma to release Aung San Suu Kyi
so that more constructive dialogue could begin. President Triet
commended the Obama Administration for its more "flexible" approach
to Burma, as well as to Iran and North Korea, but offered little
specific commentary. Asked what priorities Vietnam would bring to
its ASEAN chairmanship, Triet was similarly nonresponsive, saying
only that it was a bit early to discuss.

Human Rights

HANOI 00000848 002 OF 002


------------

5. (SBU) Though the conversation remained cordial throughout, the
Ambassador and Triet offered starkly different views on human
rights. The Ambassador said that recent incidents (such as
violence at the Tam Toa Church ruins in Quang Binh and attacks on
the Plum Village Order in Lam Dong) threatened to obscure progress
in enlarging religious freedom. Triet said that as a student
activist, he had himself been arrested without charge and beaten
(presumably by the South Vietnamese authorities), and so was
personally committed to human rights. Nevertheless, he said that
Vietnam had a conflicted and difficult history, and it was unfair
to judge his country by the standards of another. Taking a harder
tone, he said that Vietnam's leadership was responsive to
dissenting views, but insisted that opinions had to be
"constructive." "Destructive" opinions were like sticks thrust
into the spokes of a speeding bicycle, he said. Triet and the
Ambassador agreed that whatever our differences, the best way to
move forward was through continued dialogue.

Agent Orange and Catfish

------------------------

6. (SBU) President Triet urged the United States to "play a more
active role" in assisting "victims" of Agent Orange, noting that a
USD 3 million cleanup effort, while welcome, was still small. He
also urged the United States not to classify certain types of
Vietnamese fish as catfish, arguing that this would unfairly harm
local producers. On Agent Orange, the Ambassador noted progress in
dioxin cleanup at the Danang airport hotspot and said that the
United States was committed to further discussion of science-based
solutions, both on health issues and to further environmental
remediation. He took note of Vietnam's familiar position on
catfish, and said that, as a larger issue, ongoing BIT and TIFA
discussions were essential to furthering our already growing trade
relations.
MICHALAK

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