USS Carl Vinson arrives in Vietnam in historic first since war

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.

For the first time since the Vietnam War, the U.S. 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.

"Our nations' relationship has reached new heights in the past few years, and USS Carl Vinson's port visit to Vietnam is a reflection of that", said Navy Adm. Scott Swift, the commander of the U.S.

Hailing the "dramatic progress" in that relationship, USA ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said the visit underscored United States commitment to the region and to Vietnam in particular.

Analysts say the Carl Vinson's landmark visit also sends a signal to China, which has sought to assert its claim on islands in the South China Sea.

"The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is the epitome of modern naval power", wrote Carl Thayer, professor of politics at the Australian Defense Force Academy, in a note.

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The Navy now makes regular, small-scale visits to Vietnam that the service calls "Naval Engagement Activities".

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Vietnam remains the most vocal claimant in the South China Sea dispute as the Philippines has backed off under China-friendly President Rodrigo Duterte.

The ship, which is called the Carl Vinson, will dock off Danang, which is the main Vietnam port that has been the landing area for American ships for many years.

That the USA has sent its "epitome of modern naval power" to the area delivers a message to China, wrote Carl Thayer, professor of politics at the Australian Defence Force Academy, wrote in a policy briefing.

The visit includes a number of cultural and community events, such as basketball and soccer matches between U.S. sailors and locals, an orphanage visit and naval band concerts. A U.S. Navy band will also perform a concert in Da Nang.

"The United States and Vietnam share a range of interests including a desire to maintain peace, prosperity, unimpeded commerce, (and) freedom of navigation, upon which the region and its economies depend", he told reporters Monday.

The Nimitz-class supercarrier, accompanied by a carrier and a destroyer, anchored off the coast of Da Nang - the city where 3,500 Marines landed in March 1965 as the first American ground troops in a conflict that would eventually leave 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese dead.

Vietnam Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said the visit underscores its good relations with the USA and contributes to "maintaining peace, stability, security, cooperation and development in the region". Some Vietnamese officials are concerned that China could respond to the US visit by maintaining its own presence in Vietnamese waters.

Vietnam has also urged its fellow ASEAN nations to take a stronger stance against China in the South China Sea, though the body has largely chosen not to forcefully challenge Beijing.


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