Vietnam officials visit United States aircraft carrier

US aircraft carrier to arrive in Vietnam for historic visit

For the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, a USA aircraft carrier made a port call in Vietnam on Monday, signaling how China's rise is bringing together former foes in a significant shift in the regions geopolitical landscape, the media reported.

USS Carl Vinson's arrival marks biggest U.S. military presence since 1975 and comes at a time China seeks to expand influence in South China Sea. The war ended on April 30, 1975 with the victory of North Vietnam.

Despite pulling the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade deal that Vietnam was a key part of, Trump has maintained strong ties with Hanoi.

"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.

Ties between the wartime enemies have warmed in recent years, especially under former US President Barack Obama, who in 2016 lifted a decades-old arms embargo.

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 visit, which is being billed by US officials as a historic chance to build relationships with the Vietnamese, is being interpreted as a message to Beijing as the USA seeks to bulk up its presence and influence in the South China Sea.

United States officials refused to be drawn on the tensions with China on Monday, insisting the trip was a routine deployment to the Western Pacific.

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

Compared to the 11 active aircraft carriers in the US Navy, China now boasts just one.

China is now the de facto superpower in this region, and by far the most important trading partner for Vietnam.

But analysts say it inevitably sends a message to China as it continues to develop the disputed South China Sea.

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.

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. The 1,000 foot-long (300 meter) ship weighing 95,000 tons will be in Danang until its departure on Friday.

During the visit, USA sailors will also participate in cultural and professional exchanges, including community service projects, sports competitions and receptions, according to a Navy news release.

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