US embassy cable - 00HANOI2560

AMBASSADOR'S 11/22/00 MEETING WITH VICE MINISTER BIN: LY TONG INCIDENT

Identifier: 00HANOI2560
Wikileaks: View 00HANOI2560 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Hanoi
Created: 2000-11-22 09:15:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PREL VM
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

220915Z Nov 00

2000HANOI02560 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTQ2861

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ACTION EAP-00   

INFO  LOG-00   NP-00    AID-00   ACQ-00   CIAE-00  DODE-00  SRPP-00  
      DS-00    FBIE-00  UTED-00  VC-00    TEDE-00  INR-00   VCE-00   
      NSAE-00  IRM-00   SSO-00   SS-00    DSCC-00  NFAT-00  SAS-00   
        /000W
                  ------------------A27EAB  220929Z /38    
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1373
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 002560 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPT FOR EAP/BCLTV 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
REF:  A) HANOI 2557   B) HANOI 2559 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL, VM 
SUBJECT:  AMBASSADOR'S 11/22/00 MEETING WITH VICE MINISTER BIN: LY TONG INCIDENT 
 
 
1.  (SBU) FOLLOWING HIS PRESENTATION OF VIEWS REGARDING 
THE OVERALL SUCCESS OF THE VISIT OF PRESIDENT CLINTON 
(REFTEL), VICE MINISTER BIN EXPRESSED HIS AND HIS 
GOVERNMENT'S CONCERN OVER THE LY TONG INCIDENT WHICH 
THE AMBASSADOR HAD RAISED.  BIN PICKED UP ON THE 
AMBASSADOR'S REFERENCE TO TONG AS A HIJACKER AND THAT 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HANOI  02560  01 OF 03  220929Z 
THIS WAS A DANGEROUS ACT WHICH SHOULD BE PUNISHED.  HE 
NOTED THE VIETNAMESE LEADERSHIP AND PEOPLE HAD REACTED 
NEGATIVELY TO HIS DROPPING LEAFLETS OVER VIETNAM, 
EXPLAINING THAT HE HAD ONLY BEEN RELEASED FROM JAIL FOR 
HIS PREVIOUS OFFENSE OF THIS NATURE AT THE REQUEST OF 
THE U.S. GOVERNMENT.  (NOTE:  TONG WAS CONVICTED IN 
VIETNAMESE COURTS FOR A SIMILAR OFFENSE IN WHICH HE 
HIJACKED A COMMERCIAL FLIGHT FROM THAILAND AND DUMPED 
LEAFLETS OVER VIETNAM.  HE WAS RELEASED IN A GENERAL 
VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT AMNESTY IN 1998, MUCH TO THE 
SURPRISE OF THE EMBASSY SINCE HE DID NOT MEET THE 
GENERAL VIETNAMESE CRITERIA FOR CONSIDERATION.  PRIOR 
TO THE AMNESTY, THE EMBASSY AND CONGEN HAD MADE A 
BLANKET APPEAL FOR ALL U.S. CITIZENS IN DETENTION TO BE 
RELEASED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE AMNESTY.  END 
NOTE) 
 
2. (SBU) BIN SAID TONG'S ACTIONS CAST A NEGATIVE TONE 
OVER THE VISIT AND INSISTED THEY HAD TO BE CLEARED UP. 
HE SAID THE U.S. HAD "PROMISED" MEMBERS OF THE 
VIETNAMESE COMMUNITY IN THE U.S. WOULD NOT BE PERMITTED 
TO DO THINGS WHICH "DAMAGED RELATIONS" AND THAT THE 
U.S. MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT LY TONG.  DESPITE THE U.S. 
COMMITMENT, HE SAID, OTHER VIETNAMESE ALSO CONTINUED TO 
DO THINGS THAT ARE BAD FOR THE RELATIONSHIP.  BIN 
DECLARED THE U.S. HAD COMMITTED THE TWO SIDES TO WORK 
CLOSELY TOGETHER TO MAKE SURE NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN TO 
DISRUPT OR DAMAGE THE VISIT OF PRESIDENT CLINTON, BUT 
THE U.S. HAD FAILED TO PROVIDE VIETNAM WITH ANY 
INDICATIONS OF LY TONG'S ACTIONS.   HE SAID THE U.S. 
MUST NOW ACT TO MAKE SURE THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN AGAIN 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02560  01 OF 03  220929Z 
AND WE SHOULD NOT "INTERFERE" IN TONG'S TRIAL, WHICH 
WOULD BE CONDUCTED IN ACCORDANCE WITH "INTERNATIONAL 
LAW" ON HIJACKINGS.  HE SAID HE HAD A NOTE ON THIS TO 
PASS TO THE AMBASSADOR. 
 
3.  (SBU)  THE AMBASSADOR RESPONDED BY SAYING HE HOPED 
THE VIETNAMESE HAD NOT CONCLUDED THE USG WAS IN ANY WAY 
CONNECTED WITH LY TONG'S ACTIONS AND SAID IF THAT WAS 
THE INTENT OF BIN'S MESSAGE IT WAS A MISTAKE.  HE 
EXPRESSED CONFIDENCE THE USG WOULD COOPERATE WITH 
APPROPRIATE THAI AUTHORITIES REGARDING TONG'S TRIAL OR 
WITH VIETNAMESE ACTIONS IF IN FACT HE IS DEPORTED TO 
VIETNAM.  HE SAID COUNTRIES OFTEN GAVE THE USG TOO MUCH 
CREDIT FOR ITS INTELLIGENCE ACTIVITIES AND THERE WAS NO 
WAY THE USG WOULD BE ABLE TO KNOW OF THE ACTIONS OF A 
SINGLE INDIVIDUAL SUCH AS THIS.  GLANCING QUICKLY AT 
THE TEXT OF THE LETTER, THE AMBASSADOR SAID HE REJECTED 
THE CONCLUSION IN THE LETTER THAT THE U.S. HAD NOT 
HONORED ITS COMMITMENT TO THE VIETNAMESE.   HE SAID WE 
BOTH NEED TO WORK TOGETHER ON ISSUES SUCH AS THIS SO WE 
CAN BREAK DOWN THE BELIEF THE U.S. GOVERNMENT IS 
SOMEHOW WORKING TO "DISTURB" THE RELATIONSHIP. 
 
4.  (SBU) RETURNING TO HIS FIRST POINT, THE AMBASSADOR 
SAID THE LY TONG INCIDENT WAS SERIOUS BUT WHAT WAS FAR 
MORE SERIOUS FOR THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP WAS ANY 
CONCLUSION BY THE VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES THERE WAS A 
"CONSPIRACY" IN WHICH THE USG WAS IN SOME WAY INVOLVED 
IN THIS ACT.  MOREOVER, IT WOULD BE EVEN MORE DAMAGING 
TO THE RELATIONSHIP IF YOUR LEADERS CONCLUDE THAT WE 
"KNEW SOMETHING WOULD HAPPEN AND THEN DIDN'T TELL YOU." 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02560  01 OF 03  220929Z 
THE AMBASSADOR STATED CATEGORICALLY, "WE DID NOT KNOW 
ANYTHING ABOUT THIS AND WE WERE NOT INVOLVED IN THE 
ACTION.  NO ONE IN YOUR GOVERNMENT CAN SAY I HAVE EVER 
LIED TO YOU AND WHAT I AM TELLING YOU IS THE TRUTH." 
IN RESPONSE, BIN SAID HE "TOOK NOTE OF THE AMBASSADOR'S 
COMMENTS" BUT WANTED TO CLARIFY THAT VIETNAMESE PUBLIC 
OPINION HAD ALREADY RAISED THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE 
LY TONG ACTIONS AND THE PRESIDENT'S VISIT.  HE SAID 
WHILE LY TONG IS A U.S. CITIZEN HE IS ALSO STILL 
VIETNAMESE AND THE VIETNAMESE GOVERNMENT HAS ASKED THAI 
AUTHORITIES TO TURN HIM OVER TO VIETNAM FOR 
PROSECUTION.  HE AGAIN URGED THE U.S. TO COOPERATE WITH 
THE THAIS IN THIS REGARD. 
 
5.  (SBU) THE AMBASSADOR INTERRUPTED AND SAID "YOU MUST 
UNDERSTAND HOW WE HAVE ALL BEEN WORKING TO ENSURE 
PEOPLE IN THE U.S. DID NOT CONTINUE TO SIMPLY FOCUS ON 
THE VIEWS OF THE MILITANTS WHO OPPOSE OUR RELATIONSHIP. 
WE DO THIS BY EDUCATING PEOPLE ABOUT THE REAL SITUATION 
AND BY URGING PEOPLE TO SEE FOR THEMSELVES WHAT CHANGES 
HAVE TAKEN PLACE.  IF VIETNAM OVER-REACTS ON THIS 
ISSUE, LY TONG WILL SUCCEED IN HIS EFFORTS TO DISCREDIT 
YOUR GOVERNMENT AND ITS POLICIES TO LEAD THE COUNTRY." 
HE AGAIN SAID, "THIS LETTER IS WRONG AND THE 
ACCUSATIONS YOU MAKE ARE INCORRECT." 
 
6.  (SBU) BIN REPLIED BY AGREEING THE LY TONG ACTIONS 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HANOI  02560  02 OF 03  220929Z 
HAD BEEN "DETRIMENTAL TO THE RELATIONSHIP" BUT 
DISAGREED THAT THE NOTE WAS WRONG.  "THE NOTE," HE 
SAID, "SIMPLY ASKS THE USG TO ENSURE SUCH THINGS DO NOT 
HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE."  THE AMBASSADOR RESPONDED 
IMMEDIATELY SAYING THE NOTE INCLUDES MUCH MORE.  HE 
READ THE TEXT WHICH CLEARLY STATES THE USG HAS FAILED 
TO KEEP VIETNAM INFORMED ON EVENTS "DESIGNED TO CREATE 
DISTURBANCES OR SPREAD TERROR IN VIETNAM" DURING THE 
VISIT.  THE AMBASSADOR SAID EMPHATICALLY, "THIS IS ALSO 
AN ACCUSATION DIRECTLY MADE AGAINST ME, SINCE I WAS THE 
ONE WHO PROMISED YOU SUCH COOPERATION IN THE FIRST 
PLACE."  YOU ACCUSE ME AND MY GOVERNMENT OF THINGS WE 
DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT AT ALL.  YOU ARE RISKING THE SUCCESS 
OF THIS VISIT WITH SUCH ACCUSATIONS."  BIN REITERATED 
HIS POINT THAT THE USG HAD REQUESTED TONG'S RELEASE AND 
BOTH AMBASSADOR AND DCM REJECTED THIS ASSERTION, SAYING 
EMBASSY HAD REQUESTED ALL AMERICANS INCARCERATED IN 
VIETNAM BE CONSIDERED FOR RELEASE DURING THE 1998 
AMNESTY. 
 
7.  (SBU) BIN TWICE SAID IT "WAS A PITY THE AMBASSADOR 
WAS REACTING THIS WAY" AND THE MEETING CONCLUDED WITH 
THE AMBASSADOR AGAIN "REJECTING WITHOUT RESERVATION" 
THE CONTENTS OF THE VIETNAMESE NOTE. 
 
8.  (SBU) FOLLOWING THE MEETING, VICE MINISTER BIN'S 
OFFICE CALLED THE DCM TO ASK US TO DESTROY THE 
UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION OF THE VIETNAMESE NOTE AND HA 
HUY THONG, THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE AMERICAS 
DEPARTMENT, LATER INDICATED IT WAS BECAUSE THE ENGLISH 
TEXT HAD OMITTED A PARAGRAPH IN THE ORIGINAL VIETNAMESE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02560  02 OF 03  220929Z 
TEXT.  THAT PARAGRAPH IS HIGHLIGHTED IN THE SEPTEL 
WHICH CONTAINS THE TEXT OF THE VIETNAMESE NOTE.  THONG 
THEN TOLD DCM HE WAS ALSO SENDING HIM A COPY OF THE 
"NOTES" WHICH HAD BEEN PREPARED FOR VICE MINISTER BIN 
FOR USE IN HIS MEETING.  THONG SAID, "YOU CAN USE THEM 
ANY WAY YOU WISH."  EMBASSY TRANSLATION OF THOSE 
TALKING POINTS IS INCLUDED ALONG WITH THE TEXT OF THE 
VIETNAMESE DIPLOMATIC NOTE. 
 
9.  (SBU) COMMENT:  VIETNAMESE AUTHORITIES WERE BOUND 
TO RAISE THE LY TONG INCIDENT AND TO USE HIS RELEASE 
FROM DETENTION, RETURN TO THE U.S., AND REPEAT 
HIJACKING OF AN AIRCRAFT TO CRITICIZE THE USG FOR 
FAILING TO PREVENT SUCH ACTIONS FROM TAKING PLACE. 
THEY HAVE, HOWEVER, IN THIS NOTE TAKEN THE ISSUE A LOT 
FURTHER THAN WAS NECESSARY AND PRUDENT.  DELIBERATELY 
IMPUGNING THE VERACITY OF THE USG AND ACCUSING US OF 
DIRECT KNOWLEDGE OF TONG'S ACTIONS SUGGESTS TOO MANY 
PEOPLE IN THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF THE LEADERSHIP ARE 
UNWILLING TO TRUST WHERE THIS RELATIONSHIP NOW STANDS. 
THEY ACCEPT AS A MATTER OF FAITH THE TIMING OF TONG'S 
ACTIONS TO COINCIDE WITH THE PRESIDENT'S WELCOME IN 
HANOI WAS ORCHESTRATED.  THEY BELIEVE THE USG CONTINUES 
TO HARBOR RESENTMENT OVER THE WAR AND THAT THE USG IS 
SIMPLY USING DIFFERENT METHODS TO PURSUE THE OVERTHROW 
OF THE VIETNAMESE REGIME.  THE APPEARANCE, CONCURRENT 
WITH THE PRESIDENT'S VISIT, OF AN ARTICLE IN VIETNAM'S 
MILITARY NEWSPAPER BY A SENIOR MILITARY LEADER 
CONDEMNING ATTEMPTS TO PROMOTE "PEACEFUL EVOLUTION" AND 
HIS PLEDGE THE ARMY WILL DESTROY ANY SUCH ACTIVITIES IS 
ANOTHER REFLECTION OF THAT VIEW.  WE STILL, AS THE 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02560  02 OF 03  220929Z 
AMBASSADOR HAS NOTED, HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO TO MAKE THE 
RELATIONSHIP AS STRONG AS WE HOPED IT MIGHT NOW BE. 
 
10.  (SBU) THE MFA'S UNPRECEDENTED TRANSMISSION OF THE 
NOTES FROM WHICH VICE MINISTER BIN SPOKE IS A CLEAR 
EFFORT TO DISSOCIATE THE MFA FROM THIS NEGATIVE VIEW OF 
THE U.S.-VIETNAM RELATIONSHIP.  BIN'S MFA PREPARED 
NOTES DO NOT MAKE ANY EXPLICIT LINKAGE BETWEEN THE U.S. 
PLEDGES AND TONG'S ACTIONS AND MERELY ASSERT, AS BIN AT 
ONE POINT TRIED TO EMPHASIZE, THAT THE USG SHOULD WORK 
TO PREVENT THIS FROM OCCURRING IN THE FUTURE.  (NOTE: 
BIN'S OFFICE CALLED ONLY TO RELATE INFORMATION ABOUT 
THE INCOMPLETE TEXT OF THE DIPLOMATIC NOTE.  IT WAS THE 
AMERICAS DEPARTMENT DEPUTY DIRECTOR WHO RELATED THE 
INFORMATION ABOUT THE TALKING POINTS AND SENT THEM TO 
THE DCM.  IT IS, THEREFORE, UNCLEAR WHETHER BIN HAS 
PERSONALLY DISTANCED HIMSELF FROM THE TEXT BY 
EMPHASIZING THE MORE GENERAL NATURE OF HIS TALKING 
POINTS.  IT IS CLEAR, HOWEVER, THE MFA AMERICAS 
DEPARTMENT IS SIGNALING IT HAD NOT BEEN INVOLVED IN THE 
PROCESS OF CREATING THE DIPLOMATIC NOTE AND PRESUMABLY 
ALSO DISAPPROVED OF ITS CONTENT.  END NOTE) 
 
11.  (SBU) THE AMBASSADOR'S STRAIGHT-FORWARD REJECTION 
OF THE VIETNAMESE NOTE LEAVES THE USG POSITION QUITE 
CLEAR.  IT REMAINS TO BE SEEN WHETHER THE VIETNAMESE 
WILL LET THE MATTER DROP AND SIMPLY MOVE ON TO 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 02        HANOI  02560  03 OF 03  220930Z 
DEVELOPING THE POSITIVE ASPECTS OF OUR RELATIONSHIP. 
WE SUSPECT THEY WILL LIKELY FOR A TIME TRY TO DO BOTH, 
BALANCING PRIVATE DIALOGUES ON BILATERAL ISSUES WITH 
PUBLIC DENUNCIATIONS OF ISSUES THAT READERS WILL SEE AS 
TARGETED AGAINST THE U.S.  THE AMBASSADOR STRONGLY 
RECOMMENDS THAT WE RESPOND QUICKLY AND EMPHATICALLY 
WITH A NOTE DENYING THE ALLEGATIONS CONTAINED IN THE 
VIETNAMESE NOTE.  FURTHER, WE BELIEVE THE DEPARTMENT 
SHOULD CALL IN THE CHARGE' AND/OR AMBASSADOR BANG AS 
SOON AS HE RETURNS TO WASHINGTON AND AGAIN FORMALLY 
REJECT THE CONTENTS OF THE VIETNAMESE NOTE.  WE 
RECOMMEND UNDER SECRETARY PICKERING BE ASKED TO TAKE ON 
THIS RESPONSIBILITY TO INDICATE THE HIGH-LEVEL CONCERN 
OF THE DEPARTMENT AND THE USG ABOUT THE SERIOUS NATURE 
OF THE VIETNAMESE ACCUSATIONS. 
 
PETERSON 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
 


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