Landmark US carrier visit to Vietnam begins Monday

Mar 06, 2018, 01:48
Landmark US carrier visit to Vietnam begins Monday

This signals that the rise in China's influence and economy, which is bringing together countries who were previously foes and creating huge changes in the areas geopolitical landscape.

Although no us aircraft carrier has been to Vietnam since the end of the war, other smaller American warships have made high-level visits as ties improved in recent years.

The visit, which is being billed by US officials as a historic chance to build relationships with the Vietnamese, is being interpreted as a message to Beijing as the USA seeks to bulk up its presence and influence in the South China Sea.

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

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. It will anchor just off Danang, where US Marines landed 53 years ago this month - the first direct involvement by American combat troops in the war.

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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".

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

In its National Security Strategy (NSS) paper, released last December, the Trump administration identified Vietnam as a "cooperative maritime partner", underlining Hanoi's emergence as a key player in preserving the existing order in the East Asian seascape.

Though US military ships have regularly docked in Vietnam in recent years, this is the first port call for an aircraft carrier.

With a Northrup Grumman E-2 Hawkeye parked in foreground, USA navy personnel cool themselves on the flight deck of the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier anchors off Manila, Philippines, for a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy, Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018.

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"The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam", declared Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. The show of US naval power in Vietnam will demonstrate to China that Washington and Hanoi are looking to expand their military cooperation in the South China Sea, experts say.

It has also sought to join the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), now resuscitated as TPP-11 (minus the United States), in order to expand its export markets and sources of capital and technology.

The Vietnam War - which Vietnam calls the American War - was protracted and bloody.

Moscow, its major patron through the Cold War, remains the key supplier to the modernising Vietnamese military, and India and Israel are increasingly important suppliers.

The US has always said it does not take sides in the South China Sea dispute, but the US Navy has consistently run so-called "freedom of navigation" operations through disputed waters, a clear challenge to China's territorial ambitions. "Increased cooperation between the two countries in economic, diplomatic and military areas would serve as a counterbalance to Beijing's expansionism".

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