Viewing cable 01HANOI2967
Title: VIETNAM-NORTH KOREA: RELATIONS CONTINUE TO THAW

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
01HANOI29672001-11-14 04:09:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Hanoi
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140409Z Nov 01

2001HANOI02967 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
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E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: PREL ETRD VM KN KS DPRK
SUBJECT:  VIETNAM-NORTH KOREA:  RELATIONS CONTINUE TO THAW 
 
 
¶1.  (SBU)  SUMMARY.  THE SRV/DPRK JOINT ECONOMIC, 
SCIENTIFIC, AND TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE MET IN PYONGYANG FROM 
OCTOBER 15-19 FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE VIETNAM OPENED 
BILATERAL RELATIONS WITH SOUTH KOREA IN 1992.  WHILE PRESS 
REPORTS TOUTED THE MEETING AS "HERALDING A COMPLETE REVIVAL 
OF BILATERAL TRADE," THE RESULTS OF THE MEETING APPEAR VERY 
MODEST.  THIS MEETING FOLLOWED A SERIES OF HIGH LEVEL VISITS 
OVER THE PAST YEAR.  THE RECENT THAW IS IN LINE WITH 
VIETNAM'S GENERAL POLICY TO "BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE" AND 
HAS NOT IMPACTED ITS THRIVING RELATIONSHIP WITH SOUTH KOREA. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
JOINT COMMITTEE MEETING REFLECTS "TRADITIONAL RELATIONS" 
--------------------------------------------- ----------- 
 
¶2.  (SBU)  IN AN OCTOBER 29 MEETING, NGUYEN THAC DU, KOREA 
DESK DIRECTOR FOR THE MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS (MFA) ASIA 
I SECTION, TOLD POLOFF THAT THE VIETNAM-DPRK RELATIONSHIP IS 
"REALLY VERY GOOD."  HOWEVER, HE ADMITTED THAT WHEN VIETNAM 
ESTABLISHED RELATIONS WITH SOUTH KOREA IN 1992, THE 
"TRADITIONAL RELATIONSHIP WAS STRAINED" WITH PYONGYANG.  DU 
ACKNOWLEDGED THAT SINCE 1992 THERE HAD BEEN ALMOST NO 
BILATERAL TRADE, BUT ASSERTED THAT THIS WAS NOT DUE TO THE 
POLITICAL COOLING BETWEEN THE TWO COUNTRIES.  RATHER, IT WAS 
DUE TO THERE BEING "VERY LITTLE TO EXCHANGE."  ACCORDING TO 
DU, A SERIES OF OFFICIAL VISITS THAT BEGAN IN 2000 SIGNALED 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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A RETURN TO THE TRADITIONAL FRIENDSHIP AND INDICATED THAT 
THE RELATIONSHIP IS NOW "RECOVERING STEP BY STEP."  THESE 
VISITS INCLUDED: (1) THE SRV FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT TO THE 
DPRK IN APRIL 2000; (2) THE DPRK FOREIGN MINISTER'S VISIT TO 
VIETNAM IN AUGUST 2000; (3) THE DPRK SUPREME ASSEMBLY 
PRESIDENT'S VISIT TO VIETNAM IN JULY 2001; AND, (4) THE 
OCTOBER 2001 JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE MEETING.  DU NOTED 
THAT SRV PRESIDENT TRAN DUC LUONG IS EXPECTED TO VISIT 
PYONGYANG IN 2002, BUT HE COULD NOT PROVIDE A SPECIFIC DATE. 
 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
MODEST RESULTS FROM JOINT ECONOMIC COMMITTEE MEETING 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
¶3.  (SBU)  DU DESCRIBED THE MEETINGS AS "VERY SUCCESSFUL," 
BUT HE ADMITTED THE RESULTS WERE "MODEST" AND SAID THERE 
WERE NO SIGNIFICANT OR VERY SPECIFIC AGREEMENTS SIGNED. 
ACCORDING TO DU, THE TWO COUNTRIES DID SIGN A "COOPERATION 
AGREEMENT" COVERING THREE GENERAL AREAS: 
 
--THE TWO COUNTRIES WILL "CONTINUE TO WORK" TO CONCLUDE AND 
SIGN FIVE AGREEMENTS ON ECONOMIC COOPERATION, INCLUDING 
INVESTMENT, SEA TRANSPORTATION, AVOIDANCE OF DOUBLE 
TAXATION, TRADE, AND BANKING; 
 
--THEY WILL SEEK TO COOPERATE IN OTHER FIELDS, SUCH AS 
CONSTRUCTION, AGRICULTURE, TRANSPORTATION, FISHERIES, 
HEALTH, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, CULTURE, SPORTS, AND TOURISM; 
 
--THEY WILL HOLD THE NEXT JOINT COMMITTEE MEETING IN HANOI 
IN 2003. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02967  01 OF 02  140434Z 
 
¶4.  (SBU)  DU STATED THAT A MAJOR FOCUS OF THE MEETING WAS 
BILATERAL TRADE, CURRENTLY RUNNING ONLY AT ABOUT USD 4 
MILLION ANNUALLY.  DU TOLD POLOFF THAT BOTH SIDES AGREED TO 
"WORK SUBSTANTIALLY TO INCREASE" TRADE, BUT HE COULD NOT 
PROVIDE ANY SPECIFIC FIGURES OR DEADLINES.  WHEN ASKED WHAT 
PRODUCTS VIETNAM COULD POTENTIALLY IMPORT FROM THE DPRK, DU 
CITED A CHEMICAL USED FOR CEMENT PROCESSING, AND CERAMIC 
PIECES THAT SEPARATE POWER LINES.  DU INDICATED THAT MAJOR 
ADDITIONAL RICE SALES WERE NOT LIKELY, NOTING THAT THE ISSUE 
OF THE DPRK'S USD 10 MILLION DEBT TO VIETNAM FOR A 1996 RICE 
"SALE" HAD NOT EVEN BEEN RAISED BECAUSE VIETNAM UNDERSTOOD 
THAT THE "ECONOMIC SITUATION THERE IS STILL VERY HARD." 
 
¶5.  (SBU)  NGO XUAN BINH, DIRECTOR FOR THE CENTER FOR KOREAN 
STUDIES, OPINED THAT PERHAPS PART OF THE RECENT INCREASE IN 
BILATERAL ACTIVITY IS THAT THE DPRK HAD SEEN THE SUCCESS 
VIETNAM HAD ACHIEVED WITH ITS MARKET REFORMS AND WAS HOPING 
TO LEARN FROM VIETNAM'S EXPERIENCE.  HOWEVER, DUE TO THE 
LACK OF ACCESS TO THE DPRK, BINH ADMITTED THAT "IT IS VERY 
HARD TO KNOW WHAT THEY THINK." 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
SOUTH KOREAN VIEW-LITTLE FOR VIETNMAM TO GAIN ECONOMICALLY. 
--------------------------------------------- -------------- 
 
¶6.  (SBU)  A SOUTH KOREAN EMBOFF TOLD POLOFF ON OCTOBER 26 
 
THAT THE GLOWING IMPRESSION GIVEN BY VIETNAMESE PRESS 
ACCOUNTS OF THE MEETING WAS "OUT OF PROPORTION" WITH WHAT 
HAD ACTUALLY OCCURRED.  THE MOST SENIOR OFFICIALS PRESENT 
WERE THE VICE MINISTERS OF TRADE, AND THERE WERE NO 
SUBSTANTIVE POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS, HE CLAIMED.  THE EMBOFF 
NOTED THAT "IN REALITY, THERE IS NO COMMON AREA FOR THE TWO 
SIDES SUBSTANTIALLY TO INCREASE THEIR RELATIONSHIP" AND THAT 
A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN TRADE IS UNLIKELY BECAUSE 
ESSENTIALLY THE DPRK HAS NO MONEY AND VERY LITTLE TO OFFER 
THAT VIETNAM DOES NOT ALREADY HAVE.  DUE TO THE DPRK'S 
EXTREME POVERTY, HE ASSERTED, THE ONLY POSSIBLE TRADE IS 
"BARTER TRADE."  SUCH TRADE COULD POSSIBLY INCLUDE "RICE FOR 
RUBBER OR POSSIBLY SOME MINERALS," ACCORDING TO THE EMBOFF. 
CONTRASTING VIETNAM'S RELATIONS WITH SOUTH KOREA, HE 
CONCLUDED THAT, "VIETNAM CANNOT GAIN ANYTHING ECONOMICALLY 
FROM THE DPRK." 
 
------------------------------ 
.BUT BETTER RELATIONS ARE GOOD 
------------------------------ 
 
¶7.  (SBU)  THE SOUTH KOREAN EMBOFF NOTED THAT SEOUL 
NONETHELESS VIEWS THE RECENT THAW BETWEEN VIETNAM AND THE 
DPRK POSITIVELY.  HE OPINED IT MIGHT BE CONSIDERED AN 
OUTGROWTH OF VIETNAM'S "DOI MOI" (RENOVATION) POLICY AND THE 
DPRK'S "DESPERATE" ECONOMIC SITUATION.  ACCORDING TO THE 
EMBOFF, VIETNAM -- HAVING ACHIEVED SOME ECONOMIC SUCCESS 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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SINCE "DOI MOI" IMPLEMENTATION IN 1986 -- IS PAYING MORE 
ATTENTION NOW TO ITS POLITICAL RELATIONSHIPS.  SOUTH KOREAN 
POLICY HAS ALSO PLAYED A ROLE, ACCORDING TO THE EMBOFF.  THE 
"US OR THEM" POLICY OF THE EARLY 1990S HAS BEEN REPLACED BY 
AN ROK POLICY THAT WELCOMES NORMALIZATION AND ENGAGEMENT 
WITH THE NORTH, HE NOTED.  SIMILARLY, THE DPRK POLICY OF 
CUTTING OFF EVERY COUNTRY THAT OPENED RELATIONS WITH SOUTH 
KOREA HAS ALSO CHANGED.  THESE POLITICAL FORCES, PLUS THE 
DPRK'S DIRE ECONOMIC SITUATION, HAVE "COME TOGETHER" TO 
INFLUENCE THE ONGOING PROCESS, HE DESCRIBED.  BINH, FROM THE 
KOREA STUDIES CENTER, SEPARATELY NOTED THAT THE DPRK HAS 
ALSO BEEN MAKING "SOME OVERTURES" TO SOME WESTERN EUROPEAN 
COUNTRIES AND COMMENTED THAT "SLOWLY, THE DPRK IS TRYING TO 
BECOME LESS ISOLATED." 
 
------------------------------------------ 
NO IMPACT ON VIETNAM-SOUTH KOREA RELATIONS 
------------------------------------------ 
 
¶8.  (SBU)  DU AND THE SOUTH KOREAN EMBOFF SEPARATELY  STATED 
THAT THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SOUTH KOREA AND VIETNAM IS 
VERY GOOD AND THAT THE RECENT WARMING OF TIES WITH THE DPRK 
HAD DONE NOTHING TO CHANGE THIS.  THE KOREAN STUDIES 
CENTER'S BINH ALSO DESCRIBED THE SRV/ROK RELATIONSHIP AS 
"VERY SOLID."  MOST RECENTLY, VIETNAM'S PRESIDENT VISITED 
SOUTH KOREA IN AUGUST AND SOUTH KOREA'S INFORMATION AND 
COMMUNICATIONS MINISTER VISITED VIETNAM IN LATE OCTOBER. 
SOUTH KOREA ALSO HAS AN ONGOING ASSISTANCE PROJECT TO BUILD 
40 NEW SCHOOLS IN CENTRAL VIETNAM, RECEIVING FAVORABLE MEDIA 
COVERAGE. 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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¶9.  (SBU)  COMMENT: THE FORCES THAT RESULTED IN THE COOLNESS 
BETWEEN THE DPRK AND VIETNAM FROM 1992-2000 HAVE LARGELY 
DISSIPATED, LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN FOR REVITALIZATION OF TIES 
BETWEEN THESE "TRADITIONAL FRIENDS."  THIS PROCESS IS APT TO 
CONTINUE ALONG ITS PRESENT MODEST BUT POSITIVE PATH, BUT IT 
APPEARS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT BILATERAL ACTIVITY WILL 
INCREASE SIGNIFICANTLY IN THE SHORT TO MEDIUM TERM. 
PORTER 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED