Viewing cable 03HANOI2765

03HANOI27652003-10-29 09:01:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Hanoi
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 2189 
      ¶B. Hanoi 1713 
      ¶C. Hanoi 1831 
      ¶D. Hanoi 1818 
      ¶E. Hanoi 1230 
¶1. (U) Summary: The upcoming visit of Defense Minister Tra 
to the U.S. to meet with the Secretary of Defense and other 
USG officials (ref A) is the latest and clearest of a series 
of positive signals from GVN concerning the development of a 
U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship, which has grown to 
include medical and other exchanges; conferences; joint 
attendance at regional seminars and exercises; cooperation 
in humanitarian efforts, demining/UXO removal; POW/MIA 
accounting; and an upcoming ship visit.  Vietnamese 
officials confirm that this represents a new policy of 
openness to military relationships with other countries.  So 
far, the enhanced pace of the military relationship has not 
been affected by other disagreements between the U.S. and 
Vietnam.  End summary. 
--------------------------------------------- --- 
¶2. (U) Distrust of the United States still runs deep in some 
circles in the GVN, and probably deepest in the military and 
security branches.  However, in spite of vocal GVN 
disapproval of the war in Iraq, the 2003 House passage of a 
Vietnam Human Rights Amendment to the State Authorization 
Bill, the catfish dumping case, and municipal and state 
legislation to recognize the old South Vietnam flag, the GVN 
and the MOD have maintained a largely consistent course 
toward expanding U.S. - Vietnam defense relations.  The 
GVN's strategic intent and objectives are varied (and likely 
focus heavily on counterbalancing the PRC), but it is clear 
that there has been a Politburo-level decision to promote 
these defense ties with the U.S.  This commitment represents 
progress in our effort to open up Vietnam's once closed and 
protected military to regional cooperation and ultimately to 
involve Vietnam in supporting USG regional security and 
strategic goals. 
¶3. (SBU) According to Hoang Mai Van (protect), a researcher 
at MOD's newly-opened Institute for International Relations, 
Vietnam has a "relatively new" policy of openness in its 
military relationships with other countries in general, not 
just vis--vis the U.S.   MOD is noticeably more willing now 
to send its people to participate in international and 
regional events, including those sponsored by the U.S., he 
added.  According to Van, motivation for this change came to 
some degree from ASEAN; ASEAN contacts and exchanges "over 
the past couple of years" had convinced the Vietnamese 
national security community that if Vietnam failed to open 
up to security-related contacts with other states in the 
region and the world, it would be left behind. 
¶4. (U) Minister of Defense Tra, speaking to reporters at the 
opening ceremony of the National Assembly on October 21, 
emphasized the importance of improving relations between the 
U.S. and Vietnam.  However, he drew a distinction between a 
defense "relationship" and defense "cooperation."  The two 
sides would "not yet touch upon issues of defense 
cooperation" during his counterpart visit to the U.S., he 
said, but instead would focus on demining, Agent Orange 
research, and paving the way for "future visits of military 
delegations and naval ships." 
¶5. (U) Defense Minister Tra's visit will be the highest- 
level military visit to the U.S. since 1975, a fact that the 
Vietnamese press has been announcing at every opportunity. 
Vietnamese press reports have emphasized that Tra's visit 
represents a continuation of a pattern of high-level visits 
that began with then-Defense Secretary William Cohen in 
March 2000, and continued with President Clinton's visit in 
November 2000.  The Vietnamese have reciprocated with a 
visit by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in December 
2001, and are now extending the run with recent visits by 
the Ministers of Trade, Planning and Investment, and Foreign 
Affairs as well as Tra's visit and a probable visit by 
Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan in December.  On the U.S. 
side, we are planning - and the Vietnamese have accepted in 
principle - a visit by Admiral Fargo in early 2004. 
Assistant Secretary of Defense Peter Rodman will also likely 
be visiting Vietnam in the near future. 
¶6. (U) High-level visits are not the only dimension of the 
improving U.S.-Vietnam relationship.  Conferences, 
humanitarian relief, demining, POW/MIA searches, and medical 
and other exchanges are also long-standing elements of our 
bilateral defense-related cooperation.  Specific examples of 
this cooperation are highlighted below. 
Asia Army Chiefs Conference 
¶7. (U) Lieutenant General Pham Hong Loi, Vice Chief of 
General Staff of the People's Army of Vietnam (PAVN), 
attended the U.S. Army/Pacific's co-sponsored Army Chiefs 
Conference in South Korea from August 31 to September 4. 
This was the first time the Vietnamese had attended the Asia- 
Pacific region's senior Army leaders' meeting and the first 
time Vietnam had sent a General Officer to a U.S. co-hosted, 
co-sponsored meeting.  This high-level attendance 
demonstrated Vietnam's new emphasis on regional military 
cooperation and integration and lack of concern about 
possible domestic criticism associated with attending what 
was clearly a U.S. military event.  Vietnam also has 
participated in the Pacific Area Special Operations 
Conference (PASOC) in Hawaii, and regularly sends Sr. 
Colonel (O-7)-level students to the Asia Pacific Center for 
Security Studies and other PACOM-hosted/sponsored 
Other conferences and exchanges 
¶8. (U) The U.S. and Vietnam participate in exchanges, 
conferences, and visits on a monthly basis at the Colonel (O- 
6) level and above.  In CY 2003, U.S. and Vietnamese 
military and government officials planned or attended over 
fifty different exchanges, visits, and events related to the 
defense relationship.  Though not all were completed - some 
were canceled due to the SARS crisis and some were postponed 
or canceled due to logistical reasons - this pattern of 
visits covering a diverse array of subjects and issues 
represents a solid basis for a military-to-military 
relationship.  Vietnam has also participated in multilateral 
conferences in 2003 with U.S. assistance, such as the two 
Multinational Force Standing Operating Procedures 
Development Workshops in Hawaii; the Defense Environmental 
and International Cooperation Conference in Bangkok; the 
13th Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference in Bangkok; 
and the Asia Pacific Peace Operations Capacity Building 
Program in Tokyo.  The Vietnamese have attended (with U.S. 
Title X assistance) workshops and conferences in the region 
on HIV/AIDS; Army Management; Military Operations and Law; 
and Logistics Management. 
Ship visit 
¶9. (U) For the first time, the SRV has agreed to host a U.S. 
Navy Warship at a Vietnam port, currently scheduled for Ho 
Chi Minh City in mid-November.  Ambassador Burghardt will go 
to Ho Chi Minh City for a welcoming ceremony, which will 
likely receive considerable press coverage.  Admiral Fargo 
had tentatively scheduled a visit to Vietnam during the ship 
visit but MOD officials asked that he reschedule his visit. 
According to MOD's Americas Department, the GVN decided that 
a visit of his level on the heels of the DefMin's visit and 
the ship visit would have been too many high-profile U.S. 
events within a short two-week period, and that it would be 
better to postpone the Admiral's trip.  His predecessor 
visited Hanoi in February 2002. 
Medical exchanges 
¶10. (U) PAVN and the U.S. military have an ongoing medical 
exchange program, anchored by the annual U.S.-Vietnam 
Military Medical Information Exchange.  This year, Major 
General Joseph Webb, Commander of the Tripler Army Medical 
Center in Honolulu, led the U.S. delegation.  Another source 
of medical exchange was with the visit of the Blast 
Resuscitation and Victims Assistance (BRAVA) training team, 
which completed its most recent trip to Vietnam in June 
¶2003.  Vietnamese defense officials expressed satisfaction 
with the visit, and planning is underway to repeat the 
exercise in another part of Vietnam in order to provide 
training to hospitals in areas with greater needs, such as 
Quang Tri province.  Vietnam has officially agreed to host 
the 2005 Asia Pacific Medical Conference, another first in 
the U.S. - Vietnam defense relationship. 
Cobra Gold 
¶11. (U) Vietnam has sent official observers to our 
multilateral Exercise Cobra Gold in Thailand for the past 
two years.  This offered Vietnamese officers the opportunity 
to interact with regional militaries in the conduct of the 
largest military exercise in the region, as well as interact 
with U.S. officers conducting the exercise. 
POW/MIA accounting 
¶12. (U) The ongoing joint operations of the JPAC Detachment 
Two in Hanoi and Vietnam's Office of Searching for Missing 
Persons (VNOSMP) is a continuing success story of 
cooperation between two former combatants.  At one time, 
POW/MIA cooperation was the sole measure of the bilateral 
relationship.  Now, the remarkable aspect of this 
cooperation is that, while still robust and successful, our 
joint POW/MIA efforts no longer represent the totality - or 
even majority - of our military-to-military cooperation, 
even as these efforts continue to expand with new efforts at 
archival research, interviews of former senior military 
officials, direct Vietnamese coordination with Laos and 
Cambodia, etc.   Hanoi hosted Lt. General John LeMoyne, 
Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, in May on a visit to 
meet Vietnamese officials and express appreciation for 
Vietnamese cooperation and support of these activities (ref 
E).  During his trip, LeMoyne discussed bilateral relations 
on a larger scale in his meetings with senior MFA and MOD 
officials, including Vice Minister of Defense Lt. General 
Nguyen Huy Hieu.  Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and 
Director of the POW/Missing Personnel Office Jerry Jennings 
led a U.S. delegation to Vietnam June 11-17, and had 
extensive discussions with Vietnamese political and military 
officials as well as veterans groups (ref B). 
Demining/UXO removal 
¶13. (U) The U.S. contributes funds and equipment to NGOs and 
Vietnamese agencies working to resolve the demining/UXO 
problem in Vietnam.  Contributions range from the donation 
of computers to the MOD's military demining office (BOMICO) 
to a grant (which should total about USD 6 million) to the 
Vietnam Veterans of America Fund's survey of the impact of 
mines and UXO in Vietnam as well as support for NGO's 
involved in the removal, education and Mine/UXO victims' 
assistance.  U.S. efforts have saved lives through the 
provision of more sophisticated equipment and direct medical 
assistance - including provision of medical equipment and 
skills training - as well as increased public awareness 
through public service announcements and community projects. 
These efforts have in turn generated goodwill with our 
Vietnamese military counterparts as well as the affected 
local Vietnamese populations.  Signaling Vietnam's support, 
the GVN recently indicated that it is interested in signing 
on to the Level One demining survey, long a USG priority. 
Humanitarian Assistance Program 
¶14. (U) The Humanitarian Assistance Program - Engineering 
(HAP-E) and Humanitarian Assistance Program - Excess 
Property (HAP-EP) have provided an aid dimension to the 
defense relationship.  The HAP-E program responded to heavy 
flooding in Thua Thien Hue province in 1999-2000 by donating 
relief supplies.  Later, in the flood-prone central region, 
the USG used the HAP-E program to build eight disaster 
relief centers/medical clinics over three years, including 
three three-story clinics in 2003.  Military HAP-E teams 
stocked the buildings with generators and basic medical 
equipment.  Through the HAP-EP program, the USG also donated 
medical equipment (defibrillators, operating room equipment 
and supplies) to a hospital in Can Tho in 2003.  Local 
officials credit these Can Tho donations with saving 18 
lives to date.  Both HAP-E and HAP-EP have been well 
received in Vietnam by both the national government and 
respective provincial governments.  In addition to the work 
along the central coast and in the Mekong Delta, we are 
examining a possible donation of medical equipment to Gia 
Lai Province in the Central Highlands. 
¶15. (U) Comment: The remarkable series of "firsts" that we 
have seen or will see this year - DefMin Tra's visit, the 
ship visit, the agreement to host the 2005 medical 
conference, the participation in the Army Chiefs conference 
by a General officer - are the practical outcomes of the 
GVN's decision to open up further to relations in the region 
and internationally, especially with "big countries" like 
the U.S.  This development has been remarkably resistant to 
the sorts of events that likely would have derailed 
bilateral efforts previously.  However, the Vietnamese are 
not operating in a vacuum; improvement of military relations 
with the U.S. is balanced with increased exchanges and 
visits with the Chinese (including an oncoming visit by the 
Deputy Defense Minister and Chief of General Staff), the 
Japanese, and the Indians, among others. 
¶16. (U) Whether focused on the United States, or applied 
equally to the other military powers in the region, the 
increased openness of the Vietnamese military to exchanges 
and contacts with other countries is a step forward in the 
effort to improve, modernize, and professionalize the 
Vietnamese military.  We should encourage and nurture this 
positive development by continuing to engage the Vietnamese 
through inclusion of PAVN officers in PACOM theater-level 
seminars; conferences; visits to Vietnam by senior leaders, 
including senior OSD policy officials; and military-to- 
military engagement in non-combat related areas, including 
humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and military 
medical readiness.