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In Post-War First, US Aircraft Carrier Expected To Take Port In Vietnam

A rising concern over China’s influence in the South China Sea will likely lead to the first U.S. aircraft carrier in Vietnam since the Vietnam War.

Defense officials announced the expected approval of plans to station a US aircraft carrier in Vietnam for the first time since the removal of troops at the end of the Vietnam War.

Proposed to arrive in March, the aircraft carrier was discussed during a two-day visit to Hanoi made by U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis this week. His visit included meetings with Nguyen Phu Trong, the general secretary of the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam.

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Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with Vietnam Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich during a visit to Hanoi, Vietnam on Jan. 24, 2018. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

Mutual China concern leads to US aircraft carrier in Vietnam.

Improved relations and strengthened military ties between the two nations are brought on by shared concerns over China’s behavior in the South China Sea. The Chinese military has grown an assertive presence through the region, in addition to building islands off of the nation’s southern coastline. Yearly, more than $3 trillion in cargo passes through trade routes in the waters.

The U.S. military has been working with other democracies in the region, including Japan, India and Australia. Earlier this month, U.S. Navy Admiral Harry Harris Jr, head of the Pacific Command, referred to China as a ‘disruptive force’ at a security conference in New Delhi.

The aircraft carrier is considered significant to military diplomacy.

“It is a potent symbol of the way the defence relationship has moved forward against the backdrop of China’s rising power,” Ian Storey, a South China Sea expert at the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, told Reuters.

The timing of the announcement, made by both Vietnamese and US defense officials on January 25, comes near to the 50th anniversary of the Tet offensive, a military campaign by Northern Vietnamese troops that drew significant casualties and marked a defeat of American troops that injured hopes of US and Southern Vietnamese victory in the war.

The aircraft carrier will port in Danang, a growing city in the central coast of Vietnam.

The location also draws historic significance as the first conventional combat unit of American troops was deployed to Danang in 1965.

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The USS Bennington in 1965, the same year that it deployed to Vietnam and the West Pacific.

Since relations were normalized in 1995 by former President Bill Clinton, the US has sent several military ships to Vietnam.

The prospect of an aircraft carrier taking port began with a meeting between President Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the White House last May, and talks continued when Vietnamese Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich met Mattis in Washington in August.

Vietnamese officials have yet to give the expected final approval, but if they do, March will bring the largest number of US forces in Vietnam since the fall of Saigon.


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