Cablegate: Amb/Vfm Bang: Cambodia, Cpc, Chinh, Truong, Ship

Published: Wed 12 Oct 2005 04:39 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 an October 7 meeting with Vice Foreign
Minister Le Van Bang, the Ambassador raised the following
subjects: 1) Sam Rainsy's return to Cambodia; 2) Hoang Minh
Chinh's activities in the U.S.; 3) timing of the Country of
Particular Concern (CPC) designation and International
Religious Freedom report rollout; 4) Pastor Truong's
release; 5) the Proliferation Security Initiative; and 6)
future USN ship visits. The Ambassador also delivered two
demarches reported septel. For his part, VFM Bang raised
GVN concerns about APEC and WTO accession. End Summary.
Cambodia / Rainsy
2. (SBU) Noting that the United States shares Vietnam's
desire for regional stability, the Ambassador observed that
the possibility of Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy's
return to Cambodia in the near future is a key component for
the continued development and prosperity of Cambodia, and
hence regional stability. During Prime Minister Hun Sen's
upcoming visit to Hanoi, the Ambassador suggested that the
GVN encourage Hun Sen to facilitate Rainsy's return. VFM
Bang noted that Cambodia is now "almost an equal partner in
Southeast Asia" and that it is consequently hard for the GVN
to persuade them to do anything. He added that the United
States has a strong Ambassador in Cambodia, implying that
this might be a more appropriate source of pressure on this
issue. The Ambassador replied that actually Vietnam "has a
lot of strength" and that a "quiet word" from the GVN might
be very effective. Bang remained non-committal, but
concluded that Vietnam may have some influence and commented
cryptically "we'll see if Mr. Rainsy supports Vietnam when
he returns."
3. Comment: Given Bang's hesitance, it is not likely that
the Vietnamese will exert much pressure on Prime Minister
Sen over Rainsy's return, however they may raise the issue.
Post will seek a readout of these meetings from the MFA. End
Hoang Minh Chinh
4. (SBU) Raising GVN concerns about Hoang Minh Chinh's
political activities during his visit to the United States,
the Ambassador reiterated that we take the GVN's comments
seriously. After noting that we respect Vietnam's
sovereignty, the Ambassador expressed concern that some in
the GVN may wish to prevent Chinh's return to Vietnam. He
suggested that forcing Chinh into exile would be counter-
productive and would give ammunition to those protesting
Vietnam's human rights record. The Ambassador pointed out
that Chinh is 87 years old and has limited impact as an
activist. Conversely, readmitting Chinh to the country
would send a clear signal about the improvement of the human
rights situation in Vietnam.
5. (SBU) VFM Bang replied that the GVN cannot accept these
arguments. He noted that Chinh went to the United States
for medical treatment, but he undertook political activities
once there, actions that Bang claimed endanger state
security. Bang said that the GVN takes such matters very
seriously and that this could be the last humanitarian visit
allowed because of this experience, and quietly added that
he was not saying that the GVN would prevent Chinh's return.
The Ambassador said that he understood Vietnam's views, but
preventing such trips would be counterproductive as freedom
of travel is an important part of human rights. Bang
replied that the United States was at a different stage of
development where that might be true, however in Vietnam
security concerns are more important. The Ambassador
concluded discussion on this issue by noting that he did not
know if Chinh intended to stay in the United States or
attempt to return to Vietnam.
6. (SBU) Comment: This is a particularly sensitive issue for
the Vietnamese and they are not happy that Chinh has been
outspoken while visiting the United States. However, they
have generally kept their complaints at a lower level which
may indicate that they intend to finesse the issue of his
return. End Comment.
CPC Designation and Pastor Truong's Release
7. (SBU) Moving on to other human rights issues, the
Ambassador informed the Vice Foreign Minister that CPC and
IRF report rollout was delayed until October 17 at the
earliest. The Ambassador noted that he had had a good
discussion with Committee on Religious Affairs (CRA)
Director Thi about broadening our bilateral dialogue on
religious freedom. For his part, Thi had already sent
people to the provinces to investigate alleged violations,
which was a positive development. The Ambassador further
noted that the recent release of Pastor Truong from
confinement in a mental hospital was also a welcome
development, however, Troung had to sign a document
acknowledging that he had a mental illness as a pre-
condition of his release. This made Truong vulnerable to
future official action against him. The Ambassador
expressed the hope that Truong would be allowed to enjoy the
same rights as other Vietnamese citizens. Bang did not
Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
8. (SBU) Following up on past discussions concerning PSI,
the Ambassador asked if there was any progress in GVN
consultations on the issue, emphasizing that Vietnam would
not be obligated to do anything by agreeing except to take a
public, principled stand. Bang replied that the GVN is
still considering its position.
Ship Visits
9. (SBU) Turning to the issue of ship visits, the Ambassador
noted that the last visit by a US Navy ship to a Vietnamese
port was in May. He reminded the Vice Foreign Minister that
we had asked to schedule the next visit for the USS
Blueridge for sometime in Mid-March, however the Ministry of
National Defense said that this would be too close to the
CPV Party Congress and that sometime mid-summer would be
better. To date, the schedule of the Party Congress had not
been announced so it was hard to judge whether this visit
would overlap. Our goal was to make ship visits more
routine and less high profile, the Ambassador emphasized.
Bang said that he needed to research the issue further, as
he did not know whether an earlier visit would be better.
He added that he would prefer it to be earlier.
10. (SBU) VFM Bang turned to his desire to follow up on the
visit of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai to Washington and to
bring U.S.-Vietnamese relations to a higher level. The GVN
wants to work with the United States on next year's APEC
meetings with the hope that Vietnam will be able to maintain
or even increase the momentum of this year's APEC summit in
Busan, Korea. Bang also emphasized the need for both sides
to prepare public opinion for the visit of President Bush
during the 2006 summit. In that connection, he raised his
concerns about Vietnam's bid for WTO accession and the
growing perception that the United States is "blocking"
Vietnam's accession for political reasons.
11. (SBU) Even without WTO membership, Vietnam's integration
into the global economy continues; trade, investment and
official development assistance are also increasing, Bang
stressed. However, WTO accession has important symbolic
significance for Vietnam and following the Prime Minister's
visit, the Vietnamese people expected WTO negotiations to be
concluded rapidly. The GVN wants to maintain momentum and
is willing to send a delegation, headed by Trade Minister
Truong Dinh Tuyen, to Washington to make a last ditch effort
to conclude the bilateral negotiations this year. Bang
asserted, however, that if negotiations drag on, the failure
to conclude a bilateral agreement on WTO accession will
damage U.S.-Vietnamese relations and the reputations of
those who have been working closely with the United States.
He warned that in the run-up to next year's Tenth Party
Congress, there will be significant jockeying for influence
between conservative and moderate party members, and the
failure to successfully conclude WTO negotiations will be
used against the moderates. The CPC designation decision
could also cause problems for those who want a deeper
relationship with the United States, he added.
12. (SBU) The Ambassador agreed that if one looks only at
WTO negotiations and CPC, one might think that relations
between Vietnam and the United States were stagnating.
However, if one looks at the broader picture, there is
substantial progress in the bilateral relationship, as
evidenced by strong cooperation on HIV/AIDS, Avian
Influenza, ethnic minority issues, refugee resettlement and
MIAs. The United States is committed to working with
Vietnam to make APEC 2006 a success. As for WTO, we can
conclude bilateral negotiations by the end of the year if
both sides are flexible, the Ambassador stressed. More
importantly, the reforms that Vietnam has undertaken as part
of the WTO accession process are creating a favorable
environment for business; finishing that work is vital
whether or not Vietnam joins WTO. The Ambassador emphasized
that it is not a question of whether, but when Vietnam joins
the WTO and predicted that if we can finish bilateral
negotiations by the end of this year, then Vietnam could
join by mid-2006. The Ambassador also welcomed the idea of
the Minister of Trade going to Washington at the appropriate
time for further negotiations on WTO, but said the Minster's
trip would only be useful if the necessary preparatory work
has been done beforehand.
13. (SBU) Comment: While VFM Bang's suggestion that lack of
WTO accession will be used against moderates at the upcoming
Party Congress is something we have heard before, the fact
that he raised it, along with the other political factors,
indicates how much the Vietnamese still think WTO
negotiations are truly a political issue. In a year where
bilateral trade reached record levels (more than 6.4 USD
billion in 2004), his assertion that the bilateral
relationship is "stagnating" misses how critical real trade
concessions and a better investment climate are to Vietnam's
future, as well as its relationships with other countries.
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