U.S. warship makes historic Vietnam visit

US carrier Carl Vinson docks in Danang for 1st time since Vietnam War

"The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam", declared Daniel Kritenbrink, the USA ambassador to Vietnam.

India and Vietnam have officially agreed to enhance cooperation in three key areas, with leaders also issuing statements that the countries will work together to ensure freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean.

"Although the visit is mainly symbolic and would not be able to change China's behavior - especially in the South China Sea - it is still necessary in conveying the message that the USA will be there to stay", he said.

The sailors and Marines will participate in cultural exchanges with their Vietnamese counterparts, and some personnel will visit a center for victims of Agent Orange - a defoliant that American planes sprayed on the jungle to remove cover. "They will also play basketball and soccer games with locals, while the navy band will give concert performances", Voice of America News reported.

U.S. Navy cruiser the USS Lake Champlain in Tien Sa Port on March 3. In May 2017, Vietnam hosted a Japanese helicopter carrier in Cam Ranh Bay for what was called a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief drill.


"The Philippines has just rolled over, China is continually militarizing and if the USA doesn't maintain a presence in the region, Vietnam's got nowhere to hide", Thayer said.

In recent years, Vietnam has consistently been at the forefront of multilateral diplomatic efforts, particularly in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), to criticize China's massive reclamation activities across disputed land features in the South China Sea. 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.

"During the war, I was scared when I saw American soldiers", said Tran Thi Luyen, 55, who runs a small coffee shop in the city.

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.

The visit is meant to demonstrate the countries' growing military ties. Its strike group deployed to the region under the Third Fleet Forward initiative, which allows ships to remain in the 3rd Fleet chain of command while operating in 7th Fleet waters. The vessel can carry up to 90 on-deck aircraft. The carrier's arrival demonstrates the US and Vietnam's strengthened military ties, and is likely welcome news to neighboring countries that are nervously eyeing China's military rise in the region.

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