Cablegate: U.S.-Vietnam Defense Dialogues

DE RUEHHI #1196/01 3100717
O R 060716Z NOV 09



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: U.S.-Vietnam Defense Dialogues

REF: A) 09 STATE 112900; B) 09 HANOI 825

HANOI 00001196 001.2 OF 002

1. (SBU) Summary. The U.S. and Vietnam currently conduct two
annual defense-related dialogues with Vietnam: the U.S.-Vietnam
Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue (State-led), and the
U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Defense Dialogue (U.S. Pacific Command-led).
Both are relatively new, starting in 2008 and 2005 respectively,
and are evolving into constructive forums producing solid results.
Post strongly supports both dialogues and sees great value in
continuing both discussions. End summary.

U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security, and Defense Dialogue

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

2. (SBU) The annual U.S.-Vietnam Political, Security, and Defense
Dialogue was established in October 2008 through discussions with
the Government of Vietnam. The most recent meeting occurred on
June 8, 2009. The initial talks were first proposed by the U.S. in
various meetings with Vietnamese officials through the provision of
a non-paper explaining what such discussions would entail. The GVN
formally accepted to the first session via a dipnote inviting the
U.S. side to Hanoi. The continuing existence of the dialogue and
its frequency were agreed upon with the GVN at the first round and
are not controlled through a binding agreement. There is no set
schedule; however, both sides expect to continue to meet annually.
The next meeting date has not been set.

3. (SBU) The U.S. side is led by the Assistant Secretary for
Political-Military Affairs, with participation from relevant
offices at State, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) for
Policy, the Joint Staff, and U.S. Pacific Command. The GVN
delegation to the October 2008 and the June 2009 meeting was led by
the Deputy Foreign Minister and included participants from the
Ministries of Defense and Public Security. The GVN has expressed
appreciation for the senior level at which the talks are held.

4. (SBU) While the dialogue is relatively new, it has had an
important and positive influence on our bilateral defense
relationship by establishing a senior level venue to exchange
ideas, learn each other's perspectives, and make forward progress
on specific areas of cooperation. While the dialogues were
somewhat stilted at first, we expect future rounds to follow the
example of the Bilateral Defense Dialogue (discussed below) and
evolve into more substantive, open exchanges. Further, the
dialogue sends a clear signal to the GVN leadership about the
importance of the defense and security relationship to the United
States - a key factor in making tangible progress with Vietnam.

Bilateral Defense Dialogue


5. (SBU) The annual U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Defense Dialogue (BDD)
was established four years ago through discussions between the
Ministry of Defense and U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), and is a
military-to-military dialogue. The most recent meeting occurred on
September 9-10, 2009. The existence of the dialogue and its
frequency were agreed upon through discussions with the GVN and are
not controlled through a binding agreement. There is no set
schedule; however, both sides expect to meet annually. The next
meeting date has not been set.

6. (SBU) At September's BDD, the U.S. side was led by a flag
officer from USPACOM, with participation from the component
commands, OSD, the Joint Staff, and a U.S. Mission Vietnam
representative. The GVN side was also led by a flag officer, the
Director of MOD's External Relations Department, with participation
from various military commands. This was the first BDD led at the
flag officer level; past meetings were led at the colonel level.
Given the ability of the MOD flag officer to make decisions during
the dialogue and the meeting's positive outcomes, we understand
that USPACOM intends to advocate for a flag officer on both sides
to led future meetings. We endorse this approach and believe
senior level leadership is required on both sides to engage in

HANOI 00001196 002.2 OF 002

useful exchanges and achieve concrete results.

7. (SBU) The BDD has evolved over time into a productive meeting,
as evidenced by the last iteration in September (ref B). In
previous meetings, the U.S. side was frustrated by the MOD's
tendency to read prepared remarks and take all U.S. statements down
for further consideration. By contrast, at the most recent round
of the BDD, flag officers participated, and the Vietnamese side
demonstrated an increased degree of comfort and sophistication. As
a result, the dialogue involved a much more of an open, productive
exchange of ideas and provided a valuable forum to move issues

Potential Strategic Defense Dialogue


8. (SBU) OSD has proposed a U.S.-Vietnam Strategic Defense
Dialogue at the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense level to
Vietnam and the MOD has responded positively to the idea. We
understand OSD's intent is to complement the BDD and the Political,
Security and Defense Dialogue, not replace them. To post's
knowledge, no date or agenda have been set for this dialogue.

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