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US Navy carrier's visit to Vietnam puts China on notice

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Danang (Vietnam): For the first time since the Vietnam War, a US 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.

Today's visit by the USS Carl Vinson brings more than 5,000 crewmembers to the central coastal city of Danang, the largest such US military presence in Vietnam since the Southeast Asian nation was unified under Communist leadership after the war ended in 1975.

The Carl Vinson, accompanied by a cruiser and a destroyer, is visiting as China increases its military buildup in the Paracel islands and seven artificial islands in the Spratlys in maritime territory also claimed by Vietnam.

 China claims most of the South China Sea and has challenged traditional U.S. Naval supremacy in the western Pacific.

"The visit of aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to Vietnam signifies an increased level of trust between the two former enemies, a strengthened defense relationship between them, and reflects America's continued naval engagement with the region," said Le Hong Hiep, a research fellow at the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

The ship's mission includes technical exchanges, sports matches and visits to an orphanage and a center for victims of Agent Orange, a toxic defoliant sprayed by US forces to deny cover for Communist fighters during the war.

It marks a fine-tuning, rather than a turning point, in relations. The US Navy has staged activities in Vietnam for its Pacific Partnership humanitarian and civic missions in nine of the past 12 years.

US Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink praised the carrier's visit.

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