US embassy cable - 01HANOI2817

VIETNAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST, AND BEYOND: -- TRANSFORMING TRADITIONAL FRIENDSHIPS

Identifier: 01HANOI2817
Wikileaks: View 01HANOI2817 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Hanoi
Created: 2001-10-29 04:39:00
Classification: UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Tags: PREL ETRD KPAL VM IZ IS PK SY TU AF LY
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.


2001HANOI02817 - UNCLASSIFIED
 
 
 
                           UNCLASSIFIED     PTO9412

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      VCE-00   MOFM-05  MOF-03   AC-01    NEA-00   DCP-01   NSAE-00  
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      SWCI-00    /019W
                  ------------------3691DF  290455Z /38    
FM AMEMBASSY HANOI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 4519
INFO AMCONSUL HO CHI MINH CITY 
AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV 
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM 
SECDEF WASHDC//ISA/ABLAGG//
USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI//FPA//
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HANOI 002817 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
 
STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV; NEA/IAI; NEA/ENA; NEA/NGA; SA/PAB 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PREL, ETRD, KPAL, VM, IZ, IS, PK, SY, TU, AF, LY 
SUBJECT:  VIETNAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST, AND BEYOND: 
--         TRANSFORMING TRADITIONAL FRIENDSHIPS 
 
REF: A.  HANOI 2139     B.  HANOI 2658 
 
1.  (SBU)  SUMMARY.  DESPITE A DESIRE TO PRESERVE 
"TRADITIONAL FRIENDSHIPS" IN THE MIDDLE EAST, THE LARGER 
THRUST OF THE GVN'S REGIONAL AND GLOBAL FOREIGN POLICY OVER 
THE PAST DECADE HAS BEEN TO BROADEN ITS BASE OF DIPLOMATIC 
PARTNERS AND TO PUT A GREATER EMPHASIS ON BUSINESS TIES. 
FOR EXAMPLE, VIETNAM SUPPORTS PALESTINIAN ASPIRATIONS FOR 
STATEHOOD, BUT ALSO MAINTAINS "NORMAL RELATIONS" WITH 
ISRAEL, ALBEIT WITHOUT AN EMBASSY THERE.  THE GVN HAS NO 
DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH THE TALIBAN AND WORRIES ABOUT CIVILIAN 
CASUALTIES IN THE CURRENT US-LED MILITARY OPERATIONS.  ITS 
MAJOR COMMERCIAL RELATIONSHIP IN THE REGION REMAINS WITH 
IRAQ.  RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN ARE GROWING INCREMENTALLY. 
END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------------------------- 
PALESTINE/ISRAEL: WE CAN DEAL WITH BOTH 
--------------------------------------- 
 
2.  (SBU) DOAN NGOC BOI, DEPUTY DIRECTOR GENERAL OF THE 
MFA'S WEST ASIA AND AFRICA DEPARTMENT, DESCRIBED THE 
PALESTINE AUTHORITY AS AN IMPORTANT "TRADITIONAL FRIEND" OF 
VIETNAM, WHICH STRONGLY SUPPORTS PALESTINIAN STATEHOOD.  IN 
HIS VIEW, AN INDEPENDENT PALESTINIAN STATE "WOULD SOLVE MANY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02817  01 OF 03  290455Z 
PROBLEMS" IN THE AREA.  BOI NOTED THAT PRESIDENT ARAFAT 
VISITS VIETNAM REGULARLY (REF A) AND WILL PROBABLY CONTINUE 
TO DO SO FOR THE FORESEEABLE FUTURE. 
 
3. (SBU)  BOI SAID THAT, IN LINE WITH VIETNAM'S EFFORTS "TO 
BE FRIENDS WITH ALL NATIONS," IT HAD EXPANDED ITS TIES WITH 
ISRAEL TO A MORE "NORMAL RELATIONSHIP," ADDING THAT "THERE 
IS NO REASON" THAT ECONOMIC TIES COULD NOT INCREASE.  THE 
MFA'S TU NOTED THAT THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS OFFICIAL VISITS 
(BUT NOT VERY HIGH LEVEL) SINCE ISRAEL OPENED ITS EMBASSY IN 
HANOI IN 1993, INCLUDING THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE ISRAELI 
MFA ASIA AND PACIFIC IN JANUARY 2001, AND A DELEGATION FROM 
THE ISRAEL MANUFACTURERS' ASSOCIATION IN APRIL 2001.  THE 
GVN DEPUTY MINISTER OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND ENVIRONMENT 
VISITED ISRAEL IN 2000.  TU CLAIMED THAT VIETNAM'S "NORMAL" 
RELATIONSHIP WITH ISRAEL "HAS NOT AFFECTED" ITS FRIENDSHIPS 
WITH ARAB STATES, BECAUSE "THEY UNDERSTAND WE SEEK GOOD 
RELATIONS WITH ALL COUNTRIES."  TU ADDED THAT DESPITE GVN 
WISHES TO OPEN AN EMBASSY IN ISRAEL SINCE 1993, THERE ARE 
STILL NO CONCRETE PLANS TO DO SO.  VIETNAM'S AMBASSADOR TO 
CAIRO IS ACCREDITED TO ISRAEL. 
 
4. (SBU)  ACCORDING TO ISRAELI EMBASSY SECOND SECRETARY EYAL 
BUVILSKI, ISRAEL IS CURRENTLY FOCUSED ON EXPANDING BILATERAL 
TRADE WITH VIETNAM, NOW ONLY ABOUT USD 25 MILLION ANNUALLY. 
HE SAID THAT WHILE THERE HAS BEEN A GENERAL INCREASE IN 
INTEREST FROM ISRAELI BUSINESSMEN, LOGISTICAL PROBLEMS, SUCH 
AS WORKING WITH LOCAL BANKS AND OBTAINING VISAS, REMAIN 
OBSTACLES.  ISRAEL HAS EXPRESSED A HOPE THAT THE GVN SOON 
ESTABLISH SOME SORT OF OFFICIAL REPRESENTATION IN ISRAEL, 
SUCH AS A TRADE REPRESENTATIVE, TO FACILITATE SUCH TIES. 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 04        HANOI  02817  01 OF 03  290455Z 
BUVILSKI NOTED THAT ISRAEL IS ALSO INTERESTED IN EXPANDING 
ITS ONGOING AGRICULTURAL ASSISTANCE TO VIETNAM AND IN 
PROVIDING TRAINING FOR ADDITIONAL VIETNAMESE STUDENTS IN 
ISRAEL. 
 
------------------------------------ 
AFGHANISTAN:  WORRIES ABOUT CIVILIANS 
----------------------------------- 
5.  (SBU)  NGUYEN HUY DZUNG, SENIOR EXPERT IN THE MFA'S ASIA 
II DEPARTMENT, CHARACTERIZED VIETNAM'S RELATIONSHIP WITH 
AFGHANISTAN AS "NONEXISTENT," BOTH POLITICALLY AND 
ECONOMICALLY.  VIETNAM MAINTAINED AN EMBASSY IN KABUL FROM 
1982-1992 BUT THEN CLOSED IT DUE TO THE CIVIL WAR AND 
VIETNAM'S OWN DIFFICULT FINANCIAL SITUATION.  DZUNG 
REAFFIRMED VIETNAM'S OPPOSITION TO "TERRORISM OF ANY KIND" 
BUT EXPRESSED CONCERN ABOUT THE ONGOING US-LED MILITARY 
ATTACKS IN AFGHANISTAN DUE TO THE LIKELY IMPACT ON CIVILIAN 
POPULATIONS, A LINE REPEATED IN OFFICIAL MEDIA REPEATEDLY IN 
RECENT DAYS. 
 
6.  (SBU)  THE MFA'S BOI SEPARATELY NOTED THAT THE GVN IS 
KEEPING A CLOSE EYE ON FIVE AFGHAN NATIONALS APPARENTLY 
TEACHING AT AN ARABIC-LANGUAGE SCHOOL LOCATED ON THE LIBYAN 
EMBASSY COMPOUND. (NOTE:  REF B REPORTED ONLY FOUR AFGHANS 
AT THIS SCHOOL WHO WORSHIP AT HANOI'S SOLE MOSQUE.)  HE 
CLAIMED THAT THREE SHOULD BE LEAVING THE COUNTRY "SOON," 
SINCE THEIR VISAS HAVE EXPIRED. 
 
 
----------------------- 
PAKISTAN:  LITTLE STEPS 
----------------------- 
 
7. (SBU) DR. FAZAL-UR-RAHMAN KAZI, THE PAKISTAN EMBASSY'S 
FIRST SECRETARY, TOLD POLOFF ON OCTOBER 16 THAT PAKISTAN IS 
ANXIOUS TO IMPROVE ITS POLITICAL AND COMMERCIAL RELATIONSHIP 
WITH VIETNAM AS PART OF ITS OWN EFFORT "TO BECOME MORE 
ENGAGED IN SOUTHEAST ASIA."  PAKISTAN ESTABLISHED RELATIONS 
WITH VIETNAM IN 1973, BUT CLOSED ITS EMBASSY IN 1985, DUE TO 
"FINANCIAL REASONS."  DR. FAZI DESCRIBED THIS MOVE AS A 
"MISTAKE" THAT WAS NOT RECTIFIED UNTIL OCTOBER 2000. 
HOWEVER, VIETNAM STILL DOES NOT HAVE AN EMBASSY IN 
ISLAMABAD, ALTHOUGH IT HAS AGREED "IN PRINCIPLE" TO OPEN 
ONE, ACCORDING TO DR. KAZI. 
 
8. (SBU)  PAKISTANI LEADER GENERAL MUSHARRAF VISITED VIETNAM 
FOR THREE DAYS IN MAY 2001, DURING WHICH THE TWO COUNTRIES 
SIGNED A TRADE AGREEMENT, A DRAFT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY 
AGREEMENT, AND AN AGREEMENT TO FORM A JOINT MINISTERIAL 
COMMISSION.  THE GVN DURING THE VISIT ALSO PLEDGED SUPPORT 
FOR PAKISTAN'S GOAL OF BECOMING A MEMBER OF THE ASEAN 
REGIONAL FORUM AND THE ASIA-EUROPE FORUM.  DEPUTY PRIME 
MINISTER NGUYEN CONG TAN HAS NOW POSTPONED HIS VISIT TO 
PAKISTAN SCHEDULED FOR NOVEMBER, CITING THE ONGOING MILITARY 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
PAGE 03        HANOI  02817  02 OF 03  290455Z 
ACTIVITIES IN THE REGION, DR. KAZI ADDED. 
 
9. (SBU)  DR. KAZI ADMITTED THAT THE BILATERAL ECONOMIC 
RELATIONSHIP IS "LIMITED," WITH BILATERAL TRADE ONLY WORTH 
ABOUT USD 25 MILLION IN 2000.  PAKISTAN IMPORTED 
APPROXIMATELY USD 16 MILLION WORTH OF GOODS FROM VIETNAM, 
PRIMARILY TEA, BLACK PEPPER AND FOOTWEAR, WHILE VIETNAM 
IMPORTED ABOUT USD 9 MILLION WORTH OF FERTILIZER, YARN, 
COTTON, AND OTHER GOODS.  BOTH COUNTRIES HAVE PLEDGED TO 
INCREASE THE TRADE VOLUME TO USD 100 MILLION, BUT DR. KAZI 
SAID THAT THERE ARE NO FIRM TARGETS ON WHEN TO ACHIEVE THIS 
GOAL.  DR. KAZI ADDED THAT ONE SIGNIFICANT LOGISTICAL 
PROBLEM FOR PAKISTANI BUSINESSMEN IS THEY CANNOT OBTAIN 
VIETNAMESE VISAS IN PAKISTAN. 
 
10. (SBU)  THE MFA'S DZUNG SEPARATELY CONFIRMED THAT VIETNAM 
WOULD LIKE TO INCREASE BILATERAL TRADE WITH PAKISTAN, 
CLAIMING THAT THIS IS NOW VIETNAM'S "PRIMARY INTEREST" IN 
THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP.  ACCORDINGLY, VIETNAM IS 
"EXPLORING VARIOUS OPPORTUNITIES," HE ADDED WITHOUT OFFERING 
ANY SPECIFICS.  DZUNG NOTED THAT THE IMPROVING POLITICAL AND 
COMMERCIAL TIES WITH PAKISTAN ARE IN LINE WITH THE 9TH PARTY 
CONGRESS' POLICY STATEMENT TO INCREASE VIETNAM'S PRESENCE IN 
"ALL SOUTH ASIAN COUNTRIES."  HE ALSO NOTED THAT VIETNAM 
WOULD LIKE TO OPEN AN EMBASSY IN PAKISTAN, BUT ADMITTED HE 
NOT KNOW WHEN IT WOULD BE POSSIBLE TO DO SO.  HE AND DR. 
KAZI MADE PARALLEL STATEMENTS ABOUT HOW THE BILATERAL 
ECONOMIC RELATIONSHIP COULD IMPROVE QUICKLY ONCE THE 
SITUATION IN THE REGION "STABILIZES." 
 
--------------------- 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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"TRADITIONAL FRIENDS" 
--------------------- 
 
11.  (SBU)  THE MFA'S BOI, DESCRIBED IRAQ (ALONG WITH LIBYA) 
AS VIETNAM'S MOST IMPORTANT "TRADITIONAL FRIENDS" IN THE 
MIDDLE EAST DURING A MEETING WITH POLOFF ON OCTOBER 12.  HE 
NOTED IN PARTICULAR THAT IRAQ HAD PROVIDED SIGNIFICANT 
ASSISTANCE TO VIETNAM DURING THE WAR WITH THE US. 
SEPARATELY, COLONEL TRAN NHUNG, DIRECTOR OF THE PEOPLES' 
ARMY NEWSPAPER INTERNATIONAL DEPARTMENT, CLAIMED THAT 
VIETNAM COULD NEVER FORGET IRAQ'S "INVALUABLE SUPPORT" 
DURING THAT PERIOD, WHILE ADMITTING THAT VIETNAM STILL 
"OWES" IRAQ APPROXIMATELY USD 100 MILLION.  BOI NOTED THAT 
VIETNAM HAD, HOWEVER, NOT SUPPORTED THE IRAQ'S INVASION OF 
KUWAIT.  COLONEL NHUNG STATED THAT VIETNAM HAD NONETHELESS 
"PROTESTED" UN SANCTIONS BECAUSE THEY "ESSENTIALLY HURT 
CIVILIANS." 
 
12.  (SBU)  BOI STRESSED THAT THE IRAQ-VIETNAM COMMERCIAL 
RELATIONSHIP IS "COMPLETELY WITHIN THE UN FRAMEWORK." 
VIETNAMESE EXPORTS TO IRAQ IN 2000 WERE WORTH APPROXIMATELY 
USD319 MILLION, PRIMARILY RICE, RUBBER, TEXTILES, AND 
GARMENTS.  VIETNAM IMPORTS MAINLY OIL FROM IRAQ, PARTLY FOR 
RE-SALE ON THE INTERNATIONAL MARKET.   BUT BOI PREDICTED 
THAT VIETNAM'S TRADE WITH IRAQ WOULD DECLINE AS IRAQ 
INCREASINGLY LOOKS TOWARD MORE TRADE WITH SYRIA, TUNISIA, 
AND TURKEY. 
 
13.  (SBU)  ACCORDING TO SENIOR EXPERT TRAN VIET TU OF THE 
MFA'S WEST ASIA DEPARTMENT, ABOUT 2,000 VIETNAMESE NATIONALS 
ARE CURRENTLY WORKING IN LIBYA, ANOTHER "TRADITIONAL 
FRIEND."  "A FEW" OTHERS ARE WORKING IN LEBANON AND THE 
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES (UAE), HE ADDED.  IN LIBYA, MOST ARE IN 
THE CONSTRUCTION FIELD, WORKING FOR SOUTH KOREAN 
CONTRACTORS.  TU STATED THAT THE WORKERS DO NOT APPEAR TO BE 
IN ANY DANGER, BUT IF THE SITUATION DETERIORATED, VIETNAM 
WOULD TAKE ACTION TO REPATRIATE THEM.  HE NOTED THAT VIETNAM 
HAD SUCCESSFULLY REPATRIATED 16,000 WORKERS FROM IRAQ DURING 
THE GULF WAR; BRINGING BACK THOSE IN LIBYA, LEBANON, AND THE 
UAE "WOULD NOT PRESENT A PROBLEM" SHOULD IT BE NECESSARY TO 
DO SO. 
 
14. (SBU)  COMMENT:  MUCH AS VIETNAM WOULD LIKE TO ENHANCE 
ECONOMIC RELATIONS WITH NEWER PARTNERS AS WELL AS 
"TRADITIONAL" FRIENDS IN AND NEAR THE MIDDLE EAST, DISTANCE, 
BUREAUCRATIC OBSTACLES AND WEAK MARKETS WILL REMAIN 
UNAVOIDABLE CONSTRAINTS.  VIETNAM'S OWN FINANCIAL 
LIMITATIONS HAMPER ITS ABILITY TO OPEN NEW DIPLOMATIC 
MISSIONS, A FURTHER DISINCENTIVE FOR THE KINDS OF 
IMPROVEMENTS IN BILATERAL AND REGIONAL RELATIONS IT SEEKS. 
PORTER 
 
                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
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                       UNCLASSIFIED 
 
 


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