Navy aircraft carrier set for historic port visit to Vietnam

Lucy Bush
March 6, 2018

A USA aircraft carrier has arrived at a Vietnamese port for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War more than forty years ago, according to media reports.

On March 5, the USS Carl Vinson docked at the central Vietnamese port of Da Nang, in a port call that the commander of the USA aircraft strike group described as a "historic step".

Asked about disputed claims in the South China Sea, Admiral John Fuller, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, said the United States was "not going to pick sides".

Danang is the city where 3,500 Marines landed in March 1965 as the first American ground troops in the Vietnam War. In June 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the USNS Richard C. Byrd in Cam Ranh Bay - the logistics hub of US forces during the Vietnam War.

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Vietnam and China have competing claims in the South China Sea, which has been of increasing concern to Hanoi.

While China has been objecting to India's oil exploration efforts in the South-China sea, the two sides agreed to continue cooperation in oil and gas exploration on land and in the continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone of Vietnam.

Last year, Vietnam deployed six submarines purchased from Russian Federation to Cam Ranh Bay, but it can not oppose Beijing alone.

Despite pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade deal that Vietnam was a key part of, Trump has maintained strong ties with Hanoi.

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The visit includes a number of cultural and community events, such as basketball and soccer matches between U.S. sailors and locals, an orphanage visit and naval band concerts. Analysts say the port call, which follows a visit to the Philippines last month, is a chance for the United States to flex its military muscle in Asia.

Separately from this week's mission, USA officials have said American warships would continue sailing without prior notice close to the China-occupied islands and atolls, an aggressive way of signaling to Beijing that it does not recognize its sovereignty over those areas.

Several Danang residents said Monday that they welcomed the Navy's visit. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis laid the groundwork for the Carl Vinson's visit in a trip to Vietnam shortly afterward.

It marked the largest American military presence on Vietnamese shores since 1975, signaling the emergence of an unlikely alliance between Washington and the Southeast Asian communist regime. Former president Barack Obama lifted a decades-old ban on the sale of military equipment to Vietnam during a 2016 visit and last year, the USA transferred a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam and signed a three-year plan for defense cooperation. "Increased cooperation between the two countries in economic, diplomatic and military areas would serve as a counterbalance to Beijing's expansionism". The Ronald Reagan began its Selected Restricted Availability maintenance period in January at Yokosuka Naval Base after completing its fall patrol late a year ago.

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Other reports by Info About Network

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