China's lack of transparency about its activities in the South China Sea is potentially disruptive to security in the region, a top USA naval officer said yesterday as an American aircraft carrier docked in Vietnam for the first time in over four decades.
Even as China's annual session of National's People's Congress is underway in Beijing, the US has sent a warship to Vietnam in a landmark visit.
The USS Carl Vinson, a 103,000-tonne carrier, along with two other ships, made their way to the Vietnamese port city of Danang to begin their five-day visit.
The three American ships are carrying more than 6,000 sailors and aviators.
However, Sawyer said the presence of the carrier had nothing to do with the dispute directly.
However, actions of such magnitude are rarely to be taken at face value in worldwide relations and hence the warship's arrival in Vietnamese waters seems to be a signal to China's hegemonic intentions in the South China Sea. The crew are scheduled to meet their Vietnamese counterparts, visit victims of Agent Orange, and participate in a soccer match and a concert.
Derek Grossman, an expert at the American global policy think tank RAND, said that while the future of U.S. -Vietnam defense cooperation remains unclear, the relationship is likely to focus on helping Vietnam enhance its maritime awareness and security capabilities at sea. The Chinese Navy has continued to boost their presence in the South China Sea (just east of Vietnam, but west of the Philippines).
The port call and US operations in the South China Sea are routine, Manning said.
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Before calling at Danang, the Carl Vinson was anchored off Manila.
That was followed up in January when U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis met in Hanoi with Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich, at which time he said the two countries are "like-minded partners" with common interests including respect for worldwide law. -Vietnamese relations have progressed.
"I will work closely with my Vietnamese partners and we will develop ideas and options for what makes sense for both of us", he said. "It is basically a kind of hedging strategy, a kind of balance of power strategy", he said. The goal of the visit was "to continue normalizing relationship [with] the Vietnamese Navy", he said, without elaborating.
The arrival of the Vinson marks the biggest us 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 [nL4N1QN08R].
"They understand well the strategic rationale behind the rapprochement between Vietnam and the U.S.", he said.
"However, it seems that Vietnam does not intend to become an ally of the United States".
The first US Marines arrived in Danang in 1965, marking the beginning of large-scale American involvement in the war, which ended in 1975 with the North's victory, reunifying the country. It's interesting, I was in Danang recently, and this is where the U.S. super carrier is docking, but along the shore there's incredible Chinese investment of hotels and resorts, where the Chinese tourists are skipping the harsh Chinese winter to go to more tropical Vietnam.