USA aircraft carrier makes historic port visit to Vietnam

Saul Bowman
March 6, 2018

On Monday, the Vinson became the first American aircraft carrier to visit Vietnam since communist forces won.

"Our nations' relationship has reached new heights in the past few years, and USS Carl Vinson's port visit to Vietnam is a reflection of that", said Swift.

The U.S.S. Carl Vinson is set to arrive in Vietnam for a historic visi in response to China's growing presence in the South China Sea.

"Through hard work, mutual respect, and by continuing to address the past while we work toward a better future, we have gone from former enemies to close partners", Kritenbrink said in the Navy statement.

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson is home to 5,300 sailors, pilots and crew and 72 aircraft and will be in Danang - once a key USA airbase - until its departure on Friday.

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

The warship is anchored just two nautical miles off Danang, a port city with high historical significance where American troops first landed for war.

Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong Lingnan University, said he believed Beijing would not be panicked by the carrier visit, in part due to quiet but successful Vietnamese diplomacy. The U.S. aims for the two nations to overcome their past and greatly increase defense cooperation, according to a source familiar with the Defense Department.

The United States normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995 and lifted an arms embargo in 2016, and the two former adversaries have steadily improved bilateral relations in all areas, including trade, investment and security.

U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at a port in Danang Vietnam

In October 2016, two USA ships - the submarine tender USS Frank Cable and destroyer USS John S. McCain - also visited Cam Ranh Bay.

Vice Admiral Phillip G. Sawyer (right), Commander of the USA navy's 7th Fleet, greets Vietnamese officials after the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson pulled into port in Danang on March 5, 2018.

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.

It has also sought to join the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), now resuscitated as TPP-11 (minus the United States), in order to expand its export markets and sources of capital and technology.

Danang, which was a major USA military base during the war, is now Vietnam's third-largest city and is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.

Vietnam remains the most vocal claimant in the South China Sea dispute as the Philippines has backed off under China-friendly President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Navy now makes regular, small-scale visits to Vietnam that the service calls "Naval Engagement Activities". Some 58,000 American soldiers and an estimated 3 million Vietnamese were killed in the war.

Several Danang residents said Monday that they welcomed the Navy's visit.

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