Cablegate: Counterterrorism: Vietnam Committed to Working

Published: Wed 2 Apr 2003 09:26 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: NA
REF: A. Hanoi 381 B. Hanoi 560 C. Kuala Lumpur 1635
- D. Hanoi 694
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The GVN views ASEAN as an important
framework for regional counterterrorism (CT) efforts and has
consistently voiced support for regional and multilateral
approaches. From Vietnam's perspective, the recently
concluded ASEAN Regional Forum intersessional meeting on
counterterrorism and transnational crime was "very
successful." However, the GVN does not appear to view a CT
leadership role for itself as "appropriate" for the
foreseeable future. The GVN does appear interested in
further pursuing CT on both multilateral and bilateral
tracks. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) In past ASEAN fora, Vietnam has demonstrated a firm
commitment to joint action on CT. At the Eighth ASEAN
Summit held in Phnom Penh last November, Prime Minister Phan
Van Khai noted the need for "further cooperation in the
fight against transnational crime, especially terrorism,
which is widely spreading in our region." At the Second
ASEAN Regional Forum Intersessional Support Group Meeting,
held in Hanoi in April 2002, Deputy Foreign Minister Le Cong
Phung (who co-chaired the meeting) stated the need for ASEAN
to adopt measures "to strengthen regional cooperation in
combating terrorism and transnational crimes." Last July's
35th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting Joint Communiqu "affirmed
ASEAN member countries' determination to enhance
counterterrorism cooperation. . ." This meeting also
resulted in the "Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat
International Terrorism between ASEAN and the U.S."
3. (SBU) According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs ASEAN
Department (MFA/ASEAN) expert Nguyen Thanh Huy, the GVN "is
fully committed" to the international struggle against
terrorism. (Note: Huy is a focal point for
counterterrorism issues within MFA/ASEAN. End note.) He
assessed the first ASEAN Regional Forum intersessional
meeting on counterterrorism and transnational crime March 20
- 22 in Kuala Lumpur as "very successful" from Vietnam's
perspective. Huy added that the GVN viewed the decision to
establish a regional CT center in Kuala Lumpur (ref c) was a
"major step forward." Huy opined that the meeting also
helped strengthen ASEAN consensus of opposing terrorism in a
"collective way." Separately, Bui Ngoc Anh, Senior
Researcher at the North America Studies Center of the
National Center for Social Sciences and Humanities,
commented that Vietnam had viewed the Kuala Lumpur meeting
as having a "positive impact" and "reinforcing the need" for
a multilateral framework to oppose terrorism.
4. (SBU) In addition to the MFA, the GVN's delegation to
the Kuala Lumpur meeting included officials from the
Ministry Of Defense, Ministry of Public Security, and the
General Customs Department. This was "significant,"
according to Huy (who also attended the meeting), because
delegates from different ministries could (and did) conduct
"considerable sideline conversations" with their respective
counterparts from other countries. Huy noted that delegates
had discussed the importance of "networking" and
"intelligence sharing" in order to enhance regional CT
efforts. While the GVN "agreed completely" on the need to
do more of this, Huy admitted that the meeting "did not
discuss concrete implementation steps." (Note: More
concrete measures may emerge from the ASEAN Senior Officials
Meeting on Transnational Crimes -- SOMTC -- in Hanoi June 9-
12 or the SOMTC+US meeting on June 12, which are intended to
flesh out Brunei's Joint Declaration from August 2002. End
5. (SBU) Huy and Anh separately stated that Vietnam was
unlikely to take a leadership role in ASEAN on the CT issue,
however. Huy said that, while Vietnam is "definitely" among
the strongest of the new ASEAN members, taking a leadership
role would send a signal that the GVN considers terrorism a
"major problem" in Vietnam. He commented that GVN leaders
preferred to highlight Vietnam's image as a "safe haven."
Huy admitted that this view "somewhat contradicts" the GVN's
oft-stated view that terrorism does not adhere to any
specific boundaries. However, he opined that the GVN "would
prefer" to leave the leadership role to countries more "at
the forefront of terrorism," such as Indonesia, Malaysia,
and the Philippines. Anh noted that he would be "very
surprised" if Vietnam tried to take a more prominent CT role
within ASEAN. While Vietnam was indeed "part of the ASEAN
CT consensus," Anh predicted that it would not be a GVN
"priority" to take a leadership role on this issue "any time
6. (SBU) While Vietnam has reiterated its CT commitment in
various fora, that support typically contains caveats
regarding the need to "respect sovereignty" and ensure "non-
interference" internal affairs. The ASEAN - U.S.
Declaration Against Terrorism similarly noted that "all
actions against terrorism must be taken in accordance with
international laws, as well as in respect for the principle
of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, and non-
interference in the internal affairs of all countries." The
North America Studies Center's Anh stressed that Vietnam
"believes strongly" that CT activities should be carried out
in accordance with "the UN Charter."
7. (SBU) The MFA's Huy reaffirmed that the GVN "is also
committed" to ratifying the remaining four international
conventions related to terrorism." MFA Department of Laws
and Treaties Deputy Director General Nguyen Truong Giang
also affirmed this commitment to POL/C in March, without
being able to offer a specific timeframe (ref B). Giang
separately confirmed to poloff that Vietnam plans to accede
to ASEAN's "Agreement on Information Exchange and
Establishment of Communication Procedures" signed last May
by Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. "It is only a
matter of time" until Vietnam accedes, he claimed. He
predicted that the GVN will move "relatively quickly" once
the other countries have ratified the agreement.
8. (SBU) Huy and Anh each noted that, while Vietnam was
strongly committed to the multilateral/ASEAN CT approach,
the GVN's policy was to also improve cooperation via the
bilateral track. Huy pointed out that recent VIP visits
between ASEAN leaders have invariably included terrorism on
their agendas. He cited the recent visit to Hanoi of Than
Shwe, Senior General and Chairman of Burma's State Peace and
Development Council, as a case in point (ref D). Anh added
that, during Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's
brief visit to Vietnam last November, counterterrorism was
similarly on the agenda during her meetings with the GVN
leadership. Anh said that this "parallel approach" was
"quite normal."
9. (SBU) It is encouraging that the GVN has demonstrated
its commitment to the CT issue within the ASEAN framework
and that CT has become a routine agenda item for senior-
level visits. It is not surprising that Vietnam has shown
little interest in assuming a leadership role on the CT
issue, however; Vietnam tends to play a similar go-along-
with-the-consensus approach on most other issues within
ASEAN as well as in APEC, NAM, and UN fora.
View as: DESKTOP | MOBILE © Scoop Media