Cablegate: Nong Duc Manh's "Working Visit" to the Prc:

Published: Fri 18 Apr 2003 09:32 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: A. Hanoi 956 B. 01 Hanoi 3294
C. 02 Hanoi 2417 D. 02 Hanoi 608
E. 02 Hanoi 2309
1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Nong Duc Manh, Communist Party of
Vietnam (CPV) General Secretary (GS), visited the PRC April
7 - 11. This was his second visit to the PRC since assuming
these responsibilities in April 2001. GS Manh was
apparently the first foreign leader to meet with the PRC's
new leadership. The visit was described as a "working
visit" and both sides used it especially to give a push to
the economic relationship. While Manh was visiting the PRC,
Prime Minister Phan Van Khai was meeting with his
counterpart in Japan (ref a). Officials discounted the
significance of the timing, however. The visit, the latest
in the steady flow of high-level exchanges characterizing
the bilateral relationship, broke no new ground, but
"reaffirmed" earlier agreements, including the Land Border
treaty and Tonkin Gulf agreement. The two sides reportedly
made some progress on outstanding fisheries issues, but
there was disappointment on the Vietnamese side on the lack
of progress on the land border demarcation. Reportedly,
there was some divergence regarding Iraq. END SUMMARY.
2. (U) According to press reports, a number of high-level
CPV and GVN officials accompanied Manh on his visit,
--Deputy Prime Minister (and former Minister of Trade) Vu
Khoan (also head of the CPV Politburo Secretariat);
--CPV Central Committee member and director of the Central
Committee's External Relations Department Nguyen Van Son;
--CPV Central Committee member and Director of the CPV
Central Committee office Ngo Van Du;
--CPV Central Committee member and Director of the CPV
Central Committee Office Ho Tien Nghi;
--Ministry of Foreign Affairs Vice Minister Le Van Bang;
--Vietnam's Ambassador to the PRC Tran Van Luat.
(Note: Khoan, Son, Du, and Nghi also accompanied GS Manh on
his previous visit to the PRC - ref b - End Note.)
3. (SBU) According to the PRC embassy, the main reasons
for GS Manh's visit were to: (1) meet the new PRC
leadership; (2) "learn from the experience" of the PRC's
16th Party Congress; and, (3) exchange views on bilateral
cooperation and various regional and international issues.
Nguyen Vinh Quang, Acting Director General of the Department
for China and Northeast Asia of the CPV Central Committee's
Commission for External Affairs, told poloff on April 16
that, while GS Manh's trip was considered a "working visit"
rather than an "official friendship visit," this did not
make much difference in the substance of the meetings.
Quang said that in a "working visit" fewer officials
accompanied Manh and there were less formal protocol
arrangements. Quang said that in addition to his party
counterpart Hu Jintao, Manh met with other key PRC leaders,
including Wu Bangguo, Chairman of the Standing Committee of
the National People's Congress; Wen Jiabao, CCP Politburo
standing committee member and Premier; Jiang Zemin, Chairman
of the Central Military Commission and former CCP General
Secretary; Vice President Zeng Qinghong; and Chairman of
China's People's Consultative Political Conference Jia
Qinglin. There were apparently no public events, but GS
Manh's visit did include stops in Anhui and Yunnan
provinces, where he met with local leaders and had a chance
to see the impact of the PRC's economic reforms, Quang
4. (U) GS Manh's visit was the latest in the steady flow
of bilateral exchanges at the highest levels. Then-Vice
President Hu Jintao attended the CPV's Ninth Party Congress
in April 2001; in September 2001, then-Chairman of the
Standing Committee of the PRC's National People's Congress
Li Peng visited; and then-head of state and party Jiang
Zemin visited in February 2002. GS Manh visited Beijing
previously in December 2001. Prior to that visit, President
Tran Duc Luong had visited in December 2000 and Prime
Minister Phan Van Khai in September 2000. In addition to
these high-level visits, there are literally dozens of other
official exchanges annually at the ministerial and expert
5. (SBU) Although two of Vietnam's three major leaders
were out of the country simultaneously, officials downplayed
any significance of this timing. Tran Quang Minh, Assistant
Director of the Japan Studies Center of Vietnam's National
Center for Social Sciences and Humanities, said that "this
was not the first time" that Vietnam's top leadership had
been out of the country simultaneously (ref a). Separately,
the CPV's Quang said that Manh's visit had been planned
"well in advance" and that the timing "depended more on the
hosts." Quang also said it was "normal" for GS Manh to
visit the new leadership "promptly" because his visit
reaffirmed the "importance that both countries and parties
hold for each other." If GS Manh had not gone now, he could
not have gone for "a couple months," Quang claimed.
6. (SBU) As on previous visits, the leaders lamented that
the economic relationship, while extensive, "has not reached
its full potential." According to press reports, two-way
trade has grown steadily the past few years. In 2000, two-
way trade was USD 2.4 billion. By 2002, it had reached USD
3.65 billion. The oft-stated goal is to reach USD five
billion by 2005. (Note: These goals are perhaps less
important than the exact composition in trade; Vietnam's
perennial fear is that virtually all "two-way" trade is and
will increasingly really be mostly PRC exports to Vietnam.
end note) PRC exports include motorbikes, machinery,
chemical fertilizers, and steel. Vietnam's exports include
crude oil, rubber, vegetable oil, timber, iron ore, and
plastics. The PRC is also the 17th largest foreign investor
in Vietnam (at least on paper), with 205 projects
capitalized at about USD 385 million. The PRC is Vietnam's
largest source of tourists - in 2002, over 723,000 Chinese
tourists visited Vietnam. (Note: It remains unclear how the
SARS outbreak, enhanced GVN screening of visitors, and
potential new limitations on PRC visitors due to SARS will
affect 2003 levels. End note)
7. (SBU) Vice Foreign Minister Bang told Ambassador on
April 18 that the two sides had also discussed large PRC-
funded projects, including upgrading the Thai Nguyen steel
complex and the Sinh Quyen copper mine, along with other
projects related to urea and bauxite. (Note: The PRC is
also involved in the Cao Ngan hydroelectric plant in Dak Lak
province in the Central Highlands. End note) He
highlighted that the PRC had formally agreed to forgive a
war-era debt of approximately USD 54.3 million as well as to
provide about USD six million for a Chinese Cultural Center
in Hanoi.
8. (SBU) As during GS Manh's previous trip to the PRC,
(ref b) both sides reaffirmed their commitment to the land
border demarcation process as well as to resolving the
"technical issues" on the Tonkin Gulf and Fisheries
agreement. Regarding the land border, Ho Xuan Son, MFA Asia
I Director General, told the resident diplomatic community
on April 16 that up to now, "only" about 25 - 30 markers
have been planted, although work was ongoing. While
praising the PRC's cooperation, Son said that the GVN would
like to see a faster pace. Separately, Tran Viet Hung,
Director of Vietnam - China Border Department of the MFA
Border Commission, told poloff on April 18 that, while both
sides had expressed disappointment at the progress thus far,
they understood that land demarcation was "complicated" due
to the inexperience of the border demarcation teams and the
difficult terrain. Hung said that both sides had pledged
"to do their best" to complete the demarcation process
(begun in September 2002) by the "end of 2005." (Comment:
Considering that the demarcation process will require the
planting of approximately 1,500 more border markers,
finishing by 2005 will be a major challenge. End Comment.)
9. (SBU) Regarding the Tonkin Gulf, VFM Bang told the
Ambassador that differences had "narrowed" during Manh's
visit on such issues as maritime demarcation and the number,
tonnage, and horsepower of fishing vessels. Both sides
agreed to continue regular meetings to resolve the remaining
"technical issues." Separately, the Border Commission's
Hung confirmed that the Vietnamese side remained concerned
over the size as well as the number of Chinese fishing
vessels. Hung noted that the Chinese vessels "tend to be
much larger than ours."
10. (SBU) The CPV's Quang said that Manh and the PRC
leadership had exchanged views on various regional and
international issues. Although Iraq came up, it was not a
major focus. He claimed that the PRC and Vietnam "were
quite close" on the Iraq issue and that the PRC leadership
told their guest that they hoped the coalition would put as
much energy into reconstructing Iraq as it did in the
military campaign. Separately, Dr. Do Tien Sam, Director of
the Institute for China Studies of the National Center for
Social Sciences and Humanities, told poloff that there was
less than "total agreement" about Iraq. Dr. Sam said that
in the past few years, the PRC had demonstrated a somewhat
"softer" foreign policy because of its priority in
developing relations with "more important countries,
including the U.S." Dr. Sam also claimed that it was
"natural" for Vietnam and the PRC to have some differences
regarding Iraq because of Vietnam's stronger view of Iraq as
a "traditional" friend. On the other hand, the two sides
"were not far apart" on Iraq; both shared the view that the
crisis should have been resolved peacefully within the UN
framework, with "respect for Iraq's territorial
sovereignty," he added.
12. (SBU) Concerning North Korea, Quang said that the PRC
and Vietnam have "virtually the same opinion." Both sides
said that the crisis should be resolved "via peaceful
negotiations" and agreed that the Korean Peninsula should be
"nuclear free." There was no discussion as to what, if
anything, Vietnam might contribute to resolving the crisis,
he added. Quang predicted that the PRC would have
"significant influence" in future Korean Peninsula
13. (SBU) VFM Bang separately told the Ambassador that the
PRC leaders had some "nice things" to say about the United
States. VFM Bang noted that GS Manh was relieved to hear
them, because "it is better to have two elephants dancing
than two elephants fighting."
14. (SBU) The Manh visit was essentially an exercise to
reaffirm the strong bilateral relationship between two of
the few remaining Communist states. Official denials
notwithstanding, the fact that GS Manh traveled to Beijing
so promptly to meet the new leadership highlights that the
relationship remains far from equal, with the Vietnamese
caring much more about events in the PRC than the other way
around. Balance remains important in Vietnam's foreign
relations, as indicated by the "non-significant" timing vis-
E-vis PM Khai's Japan visit. Similarly, GS Manh's last
visit to the PRC came on the heels of the passage of the US-
Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement, as the PRC likely sought
to ensure the PRC that relations with its neighbor were just
as important as its ties with the U.S.
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