USS Carl Vinson arrives in Vietnam for first time since end of Vietnam War

DANANG, Vietnam, March 5 (Reuters) - A U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, dramatically underscoring the growing strategic ties between the former foes at a time when China's regional influence is rising.

The imposing grey silhouette of the USS Carl Vinson could be seen from the cliff tops just outside the central Vietnamese city of Danang, where the 103,000-tonne carrier and two other U.S. ships begin a five-day visit.

"The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam," Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, said in a statement.

"Through hard work, mutual respect, and by continuing to address the past while we work toward a better future, we have gone from former enemies to close partners."

RELATED: A look at the USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam

10 PHOTOS
USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam
See Gallery
USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam
A naval officer guides the media tour, aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, after it docked at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A sailor drinks, as he guards among aircraft, aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, after it docked at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A sailor looks out, on the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, after it docked at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A sailor walks among aircraft aboard the U.S. Navy carrier, USS Carl Vinson, after it docked at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
Sailors guard on the U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson after it docks at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, docks at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, docks at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, docks at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A sailor guards, aboard the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, USS Carl Vinson, after it docked at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Kham
A Vietnamese national flag is displayed a hangar bay of the USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), the US Navy's nuclear-powered Nimitz-class aircraft carrier, anchored off the coast in Danang on March 5, 2018, during a tour of the ship by Vietnamese military officials and Vietnamese press. The USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) arrived in Vietnam March 5 for the first time since the end of the war, as the former foes bolster military ties in the face of Beijing's build-up in the disputed South China Sea. The carrier will make a four-day port call for a highly symbolic trip that will include a visit to a centre for victims of Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant sprayed over large swathes of land by the US during the Vietnam war. / AFP PHOTO / LINH PHAM (Photo credit should read LINH PHAM/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

The arrival of the Vinson marks the biggest U.S. military presence in Vietnam since 1975 - but it also illustrates Hanoi's complex and evolving relationship with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea as China announced its largest rise in defense spending in three years.

Vietnamese envoys had been working for months to ease the concerns of their giant Chinese neighbor over the visit and the prospect of broader security cooperation between Hanoi and Washington, according to diplomats and others familiar with the talks.

U.S. carriers frequently cross the South China Sea in a rising pattern of naval deployments, and are now routinely shadowed by Chinese naval vessels, naval officers in the region say.

"We've met with numerous international entities. We've seen several, so yes, we've seen Chinese ships," Rear Admiral John Fuller, Commander, Carrier Strike Group 1, told reporters in Danang. "We've seen other ships out there, so nothing extraordinary. It's been a routine deployment and everything we've seen has been exceptionally professional."

China's rapid construction and build-up of the land it holds in the disputed Spratly islands group has alarmed Vietnam and other regional governments as it seeks to enforce its claims to much of the disputed waterway, through which some $3 trillion in trade passes each year.

While some Chinese commentators have used the Vinson's presence to demand an even greater Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea, official reaction from Beijing has been relatively muted since the stop was announced in January.

That announcement came during a two-day visit to Hanoi by U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis and followed months of backroom military diplomacy between Hanoi and the Pentagon.

Although no U.S. aircraft carrier has been to Vietnam since the end of the war, other, smaller U.S. warships have made high-level visits.

Those include a 2016 visit by submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain to Cam Ranh Bay, a crucial logistics complex during the Vietnam War.

A U.S. Navy band will play a concert in Danang during the Vinson's visit, and sailors from the carrier are to spend time at a treatment center for people who were exposed to Agent Orange chemicals during the war. (Writing by James Pearson; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Nick Macfie)

RELATED: Life aboard a Navy ship during WWII

18 PHOTOS
Life aboard a Navy ship during WWII
See Gallery
Life aboard a Navy ship during WWII

Military Aircraft Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown with Sailors Performing Exercises, 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Watch as Aircraft Takes Off, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

A man holding his hat, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew with Naval Torpedoes, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Aircraft Taking Off of Carrier, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Men Getting in Aircraft, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew Eating, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Crew reading and writing, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sleeping man, c. 1942-1945.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Raid Against Marcus Island, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown with Naval Artillery Above, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Plane Handlers, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

"Got a Light, Mate?", Sailors Working Aboard U.S.S. Yorktown, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Sailors Playing Instruments, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Too Much Beer, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

Man and Aircraft, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

U.S. Navy Under American Flag, c. 1943.

(Photo by Fons Iannelli, courtesy Steven Kasher Gallery, New York)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.