USA warship makes historic Vietnam visit

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The carrier's arrival demonstrates the USA and Vietnam's strengthened military ties, and is likely welcome news to neighboring countries that are nervously eyeing China's military rise in the region.

Top leaders from both the United States and Vietnam discussed the possibility of an aircraft carrier visit previous year in an effort to further relations.

US carriers frequently ply the South China Sea in a rising pattern of naval deployments, and are now routinely followed by Chinese naval vessels, naval officers in the region say.

The Vietnam War - which Vietnam calls the American War - was protracted and bloody. The visit of American seamen to Vietnam is connected with the military strengthening of the People's Republic of China in the South China Sea. "The United States and Vietnam are cooperating more closely than ever before". The docking of the vast vessel, which can support up to 90 aircraft, will represent the largest U.S. military presence in Vietnam since the end of many years of bitter conflict and after the country was unified in 1975.

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

Servicemembers will participate in cultural and professional exchanges during community service projects, sports competitions and receptions, a Navy statement said.

The Trump administration has been quietly increasing the number of US patrols in the South China Sea, but China has failed to respond as negatively to the patrols as it did during the Obama era.

Vietnam is perhaps the only stakeholder still taking a strong stance against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, now that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has largely folded his cards.

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Rear Admiral John Fuller, who is a commander on the Carl Vinson, and whose father fought in Vietnam said "It's a pretty big and historic step since a carrier has not been here for 40 years".

Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, echoed the sentiment.

The U.S. and Vietnam each seek to contest Beijing's projection of maritime influence through their show of improved ties and force.

"I'm very happy and excited with the carrier's visit", he said.

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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". "Increased cooperation between the two countries in economic, diplomatic and military areas would serve as a counterbalance to Beijing's expansionism".