US Aircraft Carrier to Visit Vietnam

REUTERS

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.

A U.S. Navy band will play a concert in Danang during the Vinson's visit, and sailors from the carrier are scheduled to spend time at a treatment center for people who were exposed to Agent Orange chemicals during the war.

As China seeks a greater presence in the region, USA carriers have frequently plied the South China Sea in a rising pattern of naval deployments.

The Vietnam War - which Vietnam calls the American War - was protracted and bloody. "I am confident that engagements like this will further expand the comprehensive partnership between the United States and Vietnam". In June 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the USNS Richard C. Byrd in Cam Ranh Bay - the logistics hub of USA forces during the Vietnam War.

The arrival of the Vinson marks the biggest USA military presence in Vietnam since 1975-but it also illustrates Hanoi's complex relationship with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) over disputed territory in the South China Sea.

The port call is seen as both a landmark in evolving U.S. -Vietnam relations and a strong message to China, which is taking aggressive action to seize control over the entire South China Sea.

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Servicemembers will participate in cultural and professional exchanges during community service projects, sports competitions and receptions, a Navy statement said. The war killed 58,000 Americans and more than 3 million Vietnamese.

"Now the aircraft carrier comes with a completely different mission, a mission of peace and promoting economic and military cooperation between the two countries", he said.

"It's a pretty big and historic step, since a carrier has not been here for 40 years", said Rear Adm. John V. Fuller, the commander of the Carl Vinson strike group, whose father served in Vietnam.

Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, said he was "happy and excited" about the visit.

The U.S. avoided the potentially more provocative choice of having the Carl Vinson visit Cam Ranh Bay to the south, which is closer to the Spratly Islands, whose sovereignty is disputed among parties including Vietnam and China. Some Vietnamese officials are concerned that China could respond to the USA visit by maintaining its own presence in Vietnamese waters. That dread is rooted in China's growing military muscle and regional economic influence as well as the increasingly acquiescent policies of other regional claimant states, namely the Philippines under pro-China President Rodrigo Duterte.

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