Cablegate: Mfa: Don't Designate Vietnam Cpc

Published: Mon 13 Sep 2004 09:56 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
Reftels: A. HCMC 1140 B. Hanoi 2398 C. 03 Hanoi 2897 D.
Hanoi 2438
1. (U) Summary: The GVN characterizes the release of
nine prisoners of concern under the National Day
amnesty, the recognition of 25 evangelical protestant
churches in the Central Highlands, the pending
recognition of five more by the end of the year, and
the accommodating treatment of SFRC staffer Frank
Jannuzi during his visit to the Central Highlands as
"significant efforts" that should mitigate against a
CPC designation. The GVN further warns that
designating Vietnam a country of particular concern for
religious freedom will cause "grave disappointment" for
Vietnamese leaders, "seriously hurt" the Vietnamese
people, and "create problems" in our bilateral
relationship. End Summary.
2. (U) Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Director General of the Americas Department Nguyen Duc
Hung called in the DCM September 13 to describe
Vietnam's progress on religious freedom issues. He
noted that the visit of Senate Foreign Relations
Committee staffer Frank Jannuzi to the Central
Highlands (Ref A) - on Vietnamese National Day - was a
success thanks to the effort of the local authorities
to accommodate Jannuzi's scheduling needs. In
addition, AFM Hung said, the National Day amnesty of
prisoners (Ref B) had included nine names from the list
of prisoners of concern provided to the GVN by
Ambassador at Large for Religious Freedom Hanford
during his visit to Vietnam October 22-24, 2003 (Ref
C). Finally, Hung noted that authorities in the
Central Highlands had recognized and given freedom to
worship to 25 "chapters" of the Southern Evangelical
Protestant Church to date, adding that five more
chapters were under consideration for recognition by
the end of the year.
3. (U) Hung said that the GVN had heard from the SRV
Embassy in Washington that the CPC designations would
be announced "Wednesday or Thursday" (September 15 or
16). If Vietnam were on that list despite taking the
actions Hung had listed, it would "cause grave
disappointment to Vietnamese leaders, seriously hurt
the Vietnamese people, and could create problems in our
bilateral relations," Hung warned.
4. (U) The DCM noted that the U.S.-Vietnam relationship
was much broader than the single issue of religious
freedom, but stressed that Vietnam could strengthen its
case by allowing more visits by more groups, including
official delegations and religious organizations, as
well as permitting developmental agencies and NGOs free
access to the Central Highlands. Hung said that while
he personally fully understood the domestic political
considerations in the United States that affected
official actions on the human rights and religious
freedom issues, the United States also needed to
understand that these problems were fundamentally
related to economic and social development and thus
moved at a slower pace than the U.S. political cycle.
Focusing this way on religious freedom "elevates a
secondary issue to main-point status" without taking
into account cultural differences, Hung said. "A
solution will require dialogue and an approach that is
based on mutual respect, not imposition of one side's
point of view and timetable," he added. "The United
States needs to pay more attention to the psychology of
Asia. The relationship is multi-faceted, but the
people of Vietnam are willing to give it all up if
their concerns are not respected."
5. (SBU) Comment: The positive treatment given to
Staffdel Jannuzi and the news of the potential opening
of five new churches in the Central Highlands were
indeed welcome. We were less impressed with the
amnesty, however, which was more a repackaging of
previous releases than an actual response to Ambassador
6. (SBU) Comment continued: More significantly, while
the GVN, in its earlier dealings with the United
States, had seemed to have "factored in" CPC
designation, recent developments may have changed this
equation. As Ambassador Burhgardt noted in his
farewell message (Ref D), jockeying for power in
advance of the Tenth Party Congress is already intense.
Our moderate and forward-looking interlocutors have
shown some concern that hardline and nationalist
factions in the CPV will use the CPC designation as
"proof" of the USG's efforts to foster political change
in Vietnam by pushing "foreign" religions and values.
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