United States carrier on historic Vietnam visit amid sea rift with China
07 March, 2018, 00:15 | Author: Ann Santiago
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.
A U.S. Navy band will play a concert in Danang during the Vinson's visit, and sailors from the carrier are scheduled to spend time at a treatment center for people who were exposed to Agent Orange chemicals during the war.
Vietnam and China have competing claims in the South China Sea, which has been of increasing concern to Hanoi. 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.
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 message the USS Carl Vinson sends is that the U.S. will maintain its naval presence in the South China Sea and that Vietnam supports the presence of the U.S. Navy as long as it contributes to regional peace and stability".
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.
During their stay, US sailors will play friendly basketball and soccer matches with locals, hold navy band concerts and visit a center for victims of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant sprayed over large swathes of land by the USA during the Vietnam War.
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The Trump administration has been quietly increasing the number of USA patrols in the South China Sea, but China has failed to respond as negatively to the patrols as it did during the Obama era. In 2014, Beijing deployed an oil rig in disputed waters near Vietnam, which led to a standoff between naval vessels and sparked violent anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam.
"Now the aircraft carrier comes with a completely different mission, a mission of peace and promoting economic and military cooperation between the two countries", he said.
Carrier Strike Group 1 Commander Adm. John Fuller stressed that the USA was "not going to pick sides" in ongoing disputes between Vietnam and China.
Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, said he was "happy and excited" about the visit.
China's Foreign Ministry responded to the USS Carl Vinson's visit on Friday by expressing hopes that 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". "They might be irritated but gradualism is the key word here.Vietnam will only embrace the U.S.at a pace that doesn't cause an over-reaction from China".
The visit is meant to demonstrate the countries' growing military ties.
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