U.S. aircraft carrier in Vietnam for historic visit
Mar 06, 2018, 01:59
For the first time since the Vietnam War, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is paying a visit to a Vietnamese port, seeking to bolster both countries' efforts to stem expansionism by China in the South China Sea.
The USS Carl Vinson anchored two nautical miles off the port city of Danang, which was a key battleground during the war that ended in 1975.
Asked about disputed claims in the South China Sea, Admiral John Fuller, Commander of Carrier Strike Group 1, said the U.S. was "not going to pick sides". "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".
Vietnam's foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said the visit will "contribute to maintaining peace, stability, security, cooperation and development in the region".
Danang was a major U.S. military base during the Vietnam War.
Those include a 2016 visit by submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain to Cam Ranh Bay, a crucial logistics complex during the Vietnam War.
The Vinson's visit also sends a message to China as that country continues to develop reefs in the disputed South China Sea and claim control over the vast area.
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.
In recent years, the United States and Vietnam have worked to improve relations that were normalized in 1995.
China's rapid construction and build-up of the land it holds in the disputed Spratly islands group has alarmed Vietnam and other regional governments as it seeks to enforce its claims to much of the disputed waterway, through which some $3 trillion in trade passes each year. Among other things, he announced a full lifting of the US' decades-old ban on weapon sales to Vietnam. Some Vietnamese officials are concerned that China could respond to the USA visit by maintaining its own presence in Vietnamese waters.
"The United States and Vietnam share a range of interests including a desire to maintain peace, prosperity, unimpeded commerce, (and) freedom of navigation, upon which the region and its economies depend", he told reporters Monday.
Several Danang residents said Monday that they welcomed the Navy's visit.
"I'm very happy and excited with the carrier's visit", he said. 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.
Fighter jets on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USSCarl Vinson. The Ronald Reagan began its Selected Restricted Availability maintenance period in January at Yokosuka Naval Base after completing its fall patrol late previous year.
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