Cablegate: Strong Gvn Reaction to Virginia Flag Bill

Published: Mon 10 Feb 2003 09:16 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: Hanoi 288
1. (SBU) Senior Vice Foreign Minister (VFM) Nguyen Dinh
Bin told Ambassador on Sunday, February 9 that the Virginia
House of Delegates' Bill (HB 2829) on displaying the flag of
the former Republic of Vietnam is a "wrongdoing that has
upset the GVN, the National Assembly, and the people of
Vietnam." Passage by the Virginia State Senate would "set a
very dangerous precedent" and "jeopardize the bilateral
relationship," he claimed. VFM Bin also noted that mass
organizations, such as the Vietnam-U.S. Friendship Society,
are "mobilizing" against the bill. (Note: As of February
10, that Society, the Veterans Association, and the Vietnam
Fatherland Front have already issued well-publicized
denunciations of the bill. End note)
2. (SBU) VFM Bin, expanding on Assistant Foreign Minister
Nguyen Duc Hung's remarks at a meeting with Charge on
February 6 (reftel), said that the GVN's senior leadership
was following the matter with "great concern." VFM Bin said
that the GVN "appreciated" Deputy Secretary Armitage's
recent letter to the Virginia legislative officials opposing
the bill, viewing it as a "positive step."
3. (SBU) VFM Binh added that due to the "seriousness and
urgency" of the matter, the GVN requested that the
Ambassador relay to Washington the "feelings and concern of
the GVN and the Vietnamese people."
4. (SBU) The Ambassador told Bin that he would relay the
GVN's concerns, which are already "well-known in
Washington." He reminded VFM Bin that the Virginia Senate
had not passed the bill. The Ambassador explained to Bin
that, under the federal system, states have considerable
autonomy. However, if states venture into the foreign
policy arena, the federal government can and does challenge
them in court.
5. (SBU) The Ambassador cautioned VFM Bin against
overreaction to the bill, noting that a strong GVN reaction
could have the unintended effect of encouraging similar
legislation in other states with large Vietnamese-American
populations, such as Texas and California. He noted that
legislation perceived as anti-GVN is usually brought forward
by legislators representing constituencies with large
Vietnamese-American populations. The Ambassador urged
restraint, noting that the best long-term solution is for
the GVN to develop a more creative strategy for
reconciliation with the overseas Vietnamese community, many
of whom feel alienated from the GVN. The Ambassador
affirmed that on his trips back to Washington, he meets with
Vietnamese-American groups in northern Virginia and
elsewhere, explains that there have been many changes in
Vietnam, and encourages them to visit. In those efforts,
the Ambassador commented, "I am doing your job" and he
observed very little similar effort by the GVN embassy to
seek understanding with overseas Vietnamese communities.
The Ambassador also noted that suggestions we have made for
improving ties with the Vietnamese community in the U.S.
have been ignored, such as allowing family members access to
the Army of the Republic of Vietnam cemetery in Bien Hoa.
"If you defile the graves of peoples' ancestors, don't be
surprised if the descendants are still hostile," he noted.
Summing up the history of the GVN's failure to pursue a
policy of "reconciliation and concord," the Ambassador said
that it is now "reaping what it had sown."
6. (SBU) In response, VFM Bin said that he "understood
well" the US legal system, but affirmed that it is important
to deal with this "emerging" problem in "all its aspects."
If the US Administration explained all the "negative
implications" of this bill to the Virginia legislature, the
bill would probably not pass, he claimed. He denied that
the GVN was overreacting, noting that the bill, if passed,
would "hurt the most sacred feelings of the Vietnamese
7. (SBU) Concerning reconciliation, VFM Bin (the MFA
official directly responsible for liaison with the overseas
Vietnamese community) said that GVN policy in this area
reflected the "tolerance of the Vietnamese people." Despite
the fact that "many overseas Vietnamese have tried to harm
us in the past, we allow them to return to their country. I
do not think that there is any other country as tolerant as
Vietnam," Bin claimed.
8. (U) Separately, the MFA spokeswoman on February 7 said
that "Vietnam vehemently demands that the Government and
Congress of Virginia State take immediate measures to revoke
such a wrongful bill." Her remarks were widely reported by
the state media.
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