Vietnam Time

2/26/2018 3:29:07 PM

US aircraft carrier to make landmark visit to Vietnam in March

Ties between the U.S. and Vietnam have grown through shared concerns over China’s aggressive behavior in disputed waters.

U.S. Navy's aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

A U.S. aircraft carrier will make a port call in Vietnam's central coastal city of Da Nang from March 5-9, marking the very first visit of its kind since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

The USS Carl Vinson will arrive in Da Nang accompanied by a cruiser and a destroyer.

The visit is part of the U.S. Navy's annual Pacific Partnership mission that “aims at helping improve disaster-response preparedness, resiliency and capacity while enhancing partnerships with regional nations and civilian humanitarian organizations,” according to a report by Defense News last Friday.

The USS Carl Vinson was launched in 1980 and undertook her maiden voyage in 1983.

It has a displacement of 103,000 tons and measures 333 meters in length and 77 meters in width, with a capacity of carrying up to 90 aircraft.

The carrier currently operates in the West Pacific.

The arrival of a U.S. aircraft carrier in Vietnam will be welcomed by an emerging network of countries that are nervously eyeing China’s military rise, particularly its assertive stance and island-building activities in the East Sea (known internationally as the South China Sea), Reuters said in a Sunday report.

The busy waterway is a vital global trade route linking Northeast Asia with the Middle East and Europe.

Although U.S. aircraft carriers have not visited Vietnam since the end of the war, other smaller U.S. warships have made high-level visits as ties have improved in recent years.

They include a 2016 visit by submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain to Cam Ranh Bay, which was a crucial logistics complex during the Vietnam War.

The planned carrier visit was “highly significant”, said Ian Storey, an East Sea expert at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“It is a potent symbol of the way the defense relationship has moved forward against the backdrop of China’s rising power,” Storey added.

Decades after the war ended, ties between the U.S. and Vietnam have grown through shared concerns over China’s aggressive behavior in the disputed sea, through which more than $3 trillion in cargo passes every year.

Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s territorial claims and has been buying U.S. military hardware, such as an armed Hamilton-class Coast Guard cutter.

 “(Vietnam) does have one of the region’s fastest growing economies and so freedom of navigation and access in the South China Sea will be critical to them economically and of course in their security efforts,” U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said before paying a two-day visit to Hanoi last week.

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