Cablegate: Admiral Fargo Discusses Areas of Further

Published: Fri 13 Feb 2004 09:15 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
1. (SBU) Summary: In separate meetings with Deputy Prime
Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Deputy Foreign Minister Le Van
Bang on February 9, Admiral Thomas Fargo, Commander of the
U.S. Pacific Command, highlighted the recent improvement of
bilateral relations, and discussed establishment of an IMET
program, POW/MIA issues, demining, and cooperation on
transnational issues such as counterterrorism and
counternarcotics. DPM Dung expressed particular interest in
counternarcotics cooperation and English language training
for Vietnamese military officers. He also made a request
for continuing demining/UXO assistance to help reduce the
"weekly" casualties relating to UXO. Bang stressed
Vietnam's efforts on counterterrorism, highlighting
Vietnam's participation in the ASEAN Bali CT conference,
recent information sharing efforts with regional partners as
well as the U.S., and participation in regional CT working
groups. Both Dung and Bang spoke approvingly about the
recent visit of the U.S.S. Vandergrift to Ho Chi Minh City
and a planned second visit of another U.S. Navy vessel in
April to the northern port of Haiphong. Dung said the GVN
would welcome "even more frequent" ship visits. End
DPM Dung
2. (U) Ship visits: In addition to a presentation at
Vietnam's National Defense University, meetings with senior
MOD officials and a call on retired hero General Vo Nguyen
Giap in Hanoi, and visits to Danang and Ho Chi Minh City
during his February 8 to 11 visit to Vietnam (septels),
Admiral Fargo called on senior GVN officials in Hanoi,
accompanied by Ambassador. Communist Party of Vietnam
Politburo member and Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung
and Admiral Fargo reiterated satisfaction at the pace of
development of bilateral relations in 2003. DPM Dung called
both Minister of Defense Pham Van Tra's visit to Washington
and the U.S.S. Vandergrift visit to Ho Chi Minh City
"milestones." He said that he "welcomed" the upcoming April
ship visit to Haiphong, and hoped that U.S. warships could
visit Vietnam "even more frequently."
3. (SBU) Transnational issues: Admiral Fargo noted that
within the Southeast Asian region there are many
transnational issues of concern shared by both Vietnam and
the U.S., particularly counterterrorism, trafficking in
persons, counternarcotics, and piracy. These issues require
multinational solutions. Admiral Fargo identified
counternarcotics, counterterrorism, and English training for
Vietnamese military officers as the areas with the greatest
potential for common action. DPM Dung expressed agreement
with the Admiral's assessment, adding that security
cooperation should be at the top of the list. In the
matter of U.S.-Vietnam cooperation on terrorism, DPM Dung
suggested starting with an exchange of information. The
same mechanism for sharing terrorism-related information
could be used to share narcotics information, he added.
Admiral Fargo noted that, while counternarcotics is a large
issue of concern for Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and the United
States, it is not in general a military issue. However, he
added, the military has some capability to support other
agencies in this kind of activity, such as PACOM's own JIATF-
West, which has worked to train other militaries and
agencies in the region. He noted that in Thailand, JIATF-
West had created an intelligence fusion center, which is a
good model to deal with regional CN issues.
4. (U) POW/MIA: DPM Dung said he would also like to promote
greater cooperation on MIA issues, including Vietnamese
KIAs. He pointed with pride to the efforts the Vietnamese
had put into this issue, but noted that the remaining U.S.
cases are located in remote areas, or are underwater, and
therefore would require further coordination in order to
resolve. He requested that the U.S. provide more
information about Vietnamese KIA cases. Admiral Fargo
thanked DPM Dung for Vietnam's help and support in the MIA
effort, and noted that Vietnam's assistance has been
essential to the progress made to date. He added that the
USG has provided information relating to Vietnamese KIAs in
the past, and would continue to provide information in the
future. He agreed with DPM Dung about the difficulty of
continuing in remote or underwater sites, and said this was
the reason why the USG wanted to expand cooperation to cover
underwater operations. Admiral Fargo proposed coordinating
U.S. and Vietnamese experts to discuss diving and salvage
possibilities and urged the use of U.S. salvage ships for
underwater recoveries.
5. (U) Demining: DPM Dung urged Admiral Fargo to encourage
the USG, in particular the Department of Defense, to push
forward with cooperation with the Vietnamese armed forces to
help reduce UXO casualties, which remained a "weekly"
occurrence in Vietnam, especially near former U.S. military
bases in the center of the country. He asked the U.S. to
provide "better and more practical demining assistance." He
expressed Vietnam's appreciation for assistance the U.S. has
provided to date, but said that "even more would be greatly
appreciated, both equipment and training." Admiral Fargo
noted that UXO/demining is a global problem and promised to
"see what was possible" to help Vietnam. He added that
Vietnam's expertise in this area is well known might
represent an opportunity for Vietnam to contribute
6. (U) IMET: Concerning English training, Admiral Fargo
noted that there were some things that we would be possible
immediately, and the USG was happy to pursue those things.
He encouraged the GVN to consider signing an IMET agreement
with the U.S. DPM Dung said that "IMET interests us very
much" and that Vietnam would prefer to start cooperation in
the program with the English training for officers.
7. (U) Exchanges: Admiral Fargo cited multinational fora as
a way to discuss many issues, highlighting the annual Chiefs
of Defense conference and U.S.-Vietnam medicine and military
law exchanges. He encouraged Vietnam to participate as much
as possible in the "full range of events." DPM Dung thanked
him for the offer, and invited him to return to Vietnam
Foreign Ministry
8. (U) Mil/Mil: In the absence of Foreign Minister Nien
(traveling in the region), Admiral Fargo met Deputy Foreign
Minister (and former Ambassador to Washington) Le Van Bang,
who described U.S.-Vietnam relations as "booming" in both
trade and humanitarian areas. He added that improved
military-to-military relations were the "core" of bilateral
government interaction. He spoke positively of the recent
U.S. Navy ship visit in Ho Chi Minh City, noting especially
that he was impressed by the humanitarian volunteer
activities undertaken by the sailors during their visit to
Vietnam. Admiral Fargo noted that another ship visit was
scheduled for Haiphong, and expressed a hope that ship
visits would become a part of regular interaction rather
than special events.
9. (SBU) CT: DFM Bang pointed specifically to preventing
terrorism as an area in which the GVN was taking number of
new steps, including sharing information with partners in
the region and with Washington, and noted that he himself
had attended a recent ASEAN counterterrorism conference in
Bali. He said that the GVN was working with a regional
center for counterterrorism in Indonesia, as well as
participating in regional counterterrorism and law
enforcement working groups. DFM Bang characterized the
threat posed by groups such as Jemaah Islamiah as
considerable. "We must have good coordination to follow
such organizations," Bang declared.
10. (U) More CT: Admiral Fargo agreed that counterterrorism
would be a productive area for interaction, and suggested
that Vietnam would have an excellent opportunity to discuss
this at the Regional Chiefs of Defense discussions that the
U.S. hosted every year. Admiral Fargo noted that the USG
frequently sees links between terrorist groups and other
types of transnational crime, especially drug smuggling. He
remarked on the recently signed Counter-Narcotics Letter of
Agreement between the USG and the GVN, and suggested that
the GVN might cooperate with JIATF-West.
11. (U) Admiral Fargo urged establishing an IMET training
program with the GVN. Bang admitted that English ability is
a major deficiency in the GVN armed forces. Admiral Fargo
suggested that IMET funds could be used to establish in-
country language training for Vietnamese officers as a first
step, before expanding into other opportunities for training
in the United States.
12. (U) Iraq: Admiral Fargo expressed his appreciation for
GVN contributions to Afghanistan and Iraq. Bang noted
Vietnam had already donated $700,000 to Iraq and Afghanistan
(in the form of rice and school supplies), and promised that
"we'll try our best" to secure further donations for Iraq.
Admiral Fargo urged Vietnam's participation in future
peacekeeping missions. Bang opined that Vietnamese officers
would have to improve their English abilities first.
13. (U) Misc: Admiral Fargo reiterated his appreciation
for GVN assistance on the search for MIAs, and offered USG
cooperation wherever possible in the search for Vietnamese
KIAs. Bang also cited demining as an area in which the GVN
would appreciate further USG assistance.
14. (SBU) Comment: Admiral Fargo's visit was a welcome
opportunity to maintain momentum in mil/mil ties and in
moving forward in bilateral ties in general. We are
especially encouraged by the DPM's emphasis on information
sharing in the CT and counternarcotics arenas, but expect
that this will move forward by cautious steps, not leaps and
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