Viewing cable 00HANOI2560, AMBASSADOR'S 11/22/00 MEETING WITH VICE MINISTER BIN: LY TONG INCIDENT

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin



00HANOI2560

2000-11-22 09:15

2011-08-30 01:44

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.

220915Z Nov 00

2000HANOI02560 - UNCLASSIFIED



UNCLASSIFIED PTQ2861

PAGE 01 HANOI 02560 01 OF 03 220929Z
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 1373UNCLAS 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
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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
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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