US Aircraft Carrier Visits Vietnam, Sends Message to China

by Sophie Craig March 7, 2018, 0:10
US Aircraft Carrier Visits Vietnam, Sends Message to China

In response to China's rapid militarization of artificially created islands, Vietnam has embarked on limited reclamation activities of its own, accompanied by deployment of weapons systems, including precision-guided artilleries, to some of its islands in the Spratlys.

Carl Vinson is America's third Nimitz-class aircraft carrier with a crew of 5,000 Sailors who support and conduct air operations at sea.

"It's a United States push.to demonstrate a massive naval presence in the South China Sea area to China, that the USA is staying engaged", Vietnam expert Carl Thayer told AFP ahead of the trip. 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. "I am confident that engagements like this will further expand the comprehensive partnership between the United States and Vietnam".

For the first time since the Vietnam War, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is visiting a Vietnamese port, seeking to bolster both countries' efforts to stem expansionism by China in the South China Sea. In June 2012, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta visited the USNS Richard C. Byrd in Cam Ranh Bay - the logistics hub of US forces during the Vietnam War.

The U.S. and Vietnam first announced in January that the USS Carl Vinson would be making a stop in Vietnam, and Hanoi's diplomats have been working to calm their Chinese counterparts ever since. In this way Hanoi aims to deepen the stakes of other major powers in protecting its resources and maritime claims in the South China Sea. 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.

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"It's a pretty big and historic step, since a carrier has not been here for 40 years", said Rear Adm. John V. Fuller, the commander of the Carl Vinson strike group, whose father served in Vietnam.

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

Some Chinese commentators have used the USS Carl Vinson's presence in the region as justification to demand a rise in Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea. That dread is rooted in China's growing military muscle and regional economic influence as well as the increasingly acquiescent policies of other regional claimant states, namely the Philippines under pro-China President Rodrigo Duterte.

On previous occasions, the U.S. Navy has made it clear it will not be deterred from sailing through worldwide waters by the presence of militarized Chinese islands and will continue to patrol the region as it has done for the past 70 years.


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