US aircraft carrier makes historic port visit to Vietnam

USS Carl Vinson
USS Carl Vinson
Author

06 March, 2018

The arrival of the Vinson marks the biggest USA military presence in Vietnam since 1975 - but it also illustrates Hanoi's complex and evolving relationship with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea as China announced its largest rise in defence spending in three years.

Smartphone-wielding locals gathered on high ground overlooking Danang Bay in central Vietnam to witness the arrival of the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson.

"This is a historic day and we are honored to receive such a warm welcome here", Rear Adm. John Fuller, the strike group commander, said in a statement.

"We hope to continue the same issue that we've always had".

In this handout provided by the U.S. Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) transits the Sunda Strait on April 14, 2017 in Indonesia. They also reiterated the importance of, and the need for complete compliance with global law, notably the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), including the implementation of worldwide legal obligations in good faith, the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, full respect for diplomatic and legal processes, peaceful settlement of disputes without resorting to the threat or use of force, and in accordance with worldwide law.

Danang was a major United States military base during the Vietnam War.

The carrier's crew will also take part in five community service projects across Danang, including visits to a social protection centre, mental illness treatment centre and Red Cross orphanage, he noted.

But the significance of the visit is not lost on observers, amid ongoing tensions in the South China Sea which the USS Carl Vison patrols.

During the visit, US sailors will also participate in cultural and professional exchanges, including community service projects, sports competitions and receptions, according to a Navy news release.

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The South China Sea is off the coast of Vietnam, and that body of water sees $5 trillion in cargo pass through each year.

Navy musicians from the US 7th Fleet Band will perform free concerts for the public as well.

An MoU was signed that calls for collaboration between India's Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP) and the Vietnam Atomic Energey Institute (VINATOM).

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Friday that China hopes the "exchanges between [the US and Vietnam] would contribute to regional peace and stability in a positive and constructive way, instead of adding any unsettling factors".

This drives Vietnam to cooperate more closely with the US and Japan as it seeks diplomatic leverage against China.

Separately from this week's mission, USA officials have said American warships would continue sailing without prior notice close to the China-occupied islands and atolls, an aggressive way of signaling to Beijing that it does not recognize its sovereignty over those areas.

"During the war, I was scared when I saw American soldiers", said Tran Thi Luyen, 55, who runs a small coffee shop in the city.

China claims sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, where more than $5 trillion of goods are shipped each year through some of the world's busiest waterways.


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