- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 13, 2004

City Council members in the Southern California city of Garden Grove passed a resolution on Tuesday asking members of Vietnam’s communist government no longer to visit the city.

It was approved by a unanimous vote by council members that Mayor Bruce A. Broadwater said accurately reflects public opinion. One-third of the city’s population, about 67,000 people, are of Vietnamese descent, and many escaped Communist Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975.

The resolution was prompted by the State Department’s surprise announcement to city officials that Nguyen Phuc Thanh, the vice president of the National Assembly of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, wanted his motorcade to drive through the city’s “Little Saigon” district last month.

“They must have known for months,” Mr. Broadwater said, who added he was notified 48 hours before the official’s scheduled arrival.

Although it does not officially outlaw visits, the resolution announces that “the City Council does not welcome or sanction high-profile visits, drive-bys or stopovers by members and officials of the Vietnamese communist government.”

The State Department responded to the furor caused by the diplomat’s visit and the resolution.

“The State Department regrets the May 11th decision … in that it could negatively affect Vietnam’s willingness to cooperate with the U.S. in important areas, including achieving the fullest possible account for those listed as POW/MIA, fighting against terrorism, improving human rights, religious freedom and democracy in Vietnam, and developing bilateral trade and investment,” a department official said yesterday.

The department “intends to consult with the appropriate state and local authorities about the potential negative consequences such legislation could have for our foreign relations with Vietnam.”

Officials from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam Embassy fear the actions of Garden Grove’s city council will hurt the relationship between the United States and Vietnam.

“We protest this arrogant resolution,” embassy spokesman Bach Ngoc Chien said. According to Mr. Chien, it “runs counter to the ongoing forward trend of foreign relations.”

He said the council members were “blinded by hatred” when they passed the bill, and their actions were “not consistent with American and Vietnam hospitality.”

The mayor said he told the State Department that the city could not mobilize the at least 100 extra police officers needed to provide security for the guest in time. Mr. Broadwater said, however, that it was only after he phoned the office of Rep. Loretta Sanchez, California Democrat, that the visit was canceled.

To protect against similar unexpected visits, the resolution implements a “prior notice” policy “requiring outside agencies and jurisdictions,” such as the State Department, to announce visits to the police chief at least 14 days in advance. If the policy is not followed, the “requesting agency” will pay the cost of employing extra police to ensure security and manage protests.

According to Mr. Broadwater, the response to the resolution has been overwhelming positive.

“They tried to pick me up and carry me around the council chambers,” he said, referring to the city’s Vietnamese population.

The neighboring town of Westminster, who shares the “Little Saigon” district with Garden Grove, has a similar resolution to be voted on Wednesday. Westminster Mayor Margie L. Rice said she hasn’t read Garden Grove’s resolution, but her city would like to discourage visits as well.

“We prefer them not to come, but America is a free country,” Mrs. Rice said. “The Vietnamese people who we are trying to protect came to this country for freedom, so we don’t want to take it away from anyone.”

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