The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier will set anchor in Vietnam's coastal city Da Nang on Monday, the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier has visited the country since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
According to Reuters, the four-day visit by the Carl Vinson and its contingent of 5,000 sailors and aviators has been deemed an opportunity to enhance the budding friendship that has emerged between the two former foes.
The 95,000-metric-ton carrier is expected to anchor 2 nautical miles off the port of Da Nang. Cultural exchanges, including culinary and sporting activities, will take place between United States military personnel on board and their Vietnamese counterparts.
The Carl Vinson's visit will mark the biggest U.S. military presence in the country since 1975, Reuters reported.
Ruan Zongze, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the historic visit is a powerful symbol of the growing strategic and military ties between the U.S. and Vietnam.
The Carl Vinson arrives amid repeated signals from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump that it is keen to further develop security ties with Vietnam as part of a range of political and military relationships to counterbalance China, Ruan said, adding that U.S. has singled out China as its major strategic competitor in its National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy.
Teng Jianqun, a researcher at China Institute of International Studies, said the aim of U.S. sending the aircraft carrier to draw Vietnam to its side precisely meets with Vietnam's strategy to maintain equidistant diplomacy with China, Russia and the U.S.
U.S. military ties with Vietnam have deepened since 2016, when former president Barack Obama lifted the decades-old embargo on U.S. arms sales to the Southeast Asia country.
According to Xinhua News Agency, Tina Kaidanow, the U.S. State Department official for political-military affairs, said earlier that U.S. warships would maintain their "freedom of navigation" in the South China Sea.
Xinhua said in an editorial that matters concerning the South China Sea should be settled by negotiations among countries in the region, and those outside of it should not meddle in the name of so-called freedom of navigation.