USA aircraft carrier approaches Vietnam for the first time since 1975

07 March, 2018, 00:14 | Author: Austin Daniel
  • REUTERS

"The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates US support for a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam", Kritenbrink said.

On Monday, a USA aircraft carrier and two other vessels landed in Danang, Vietnam- marking the largest US military presence in the country since the end of the Vietnam War.

Vietnam and China have competing claims in the South China Sea, which has been of increasing concern to Hanoi.

The visit includes a number of cultural and community events, such as basketball and soccer matches between USA sailors and locals, an orphanage visit and naval band concerts.

Some Chinese commentators have used the USS Carl Vinson's presence in the region as justification to demand a rise in Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea.

Danang, which was a major US military base during the war, is now Vietnam's third-largest city and is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and hotels pop up along its scenic coastline.

"The Philippines has just rolled over, China is continually militarizing and if the U.S. doesn't maintain a presence in the region, Vietnam's got nowhere to hide", Thayer said.

The Nimitz-class supercarrier, accompanied by another carrier and a destroyer, anchored off the coast of Da Nang, the city where 3,500 Marines landed in March 1965 as the war's first American ground troops.

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The former Coast Guard cutter Morgenthau was transferred to Vietnam past year, becoming the largest ship in the nation's fleet.

Several Danang residents said Monday that they welcomed the Navy's visit.

"During the war, I was scared when I saw American soldiers", 55-year-old Tran Thi Luyen told the Associated Press.

Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, said he was "happy and excited" about the visit.

Analysts say the port call, which follows a visit to the Philippines last month, is a chance for the United States to flex its military muscle in Asia. "Increased cooperation between the two countries in economic, diplomatic and military areas would serve as a counterbalance to Beijing's", he said.

The United States hasn't taken any official position on South China Sea territorial claims but conducts "freedom of navigation" operations in the waterways by sailing ships without notice through disputed areas.

The Carl Vinson, a symbol of US naval might, can carry at least 70 aircraft. In recent years, Vietnam, in particular, has watched warily as China, through extensive reclamation, has transformed bits of rock and reef it controls into sprawling artificial islands that now double as military bases.

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