Vietnam to Host U.S. Navy Aircraft Carrier Visit in 2018
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — Vietnam has agreed to more naval cooperation with the United States, including the hosting of a visit from a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in 2018.
In a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Ngo Xuan Lich, minister of National Defense for Vietnam, the two leaders “agreed on actions to deepen defense cooperation, including hosting the first visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to Vietnam next year, expanding naval cooperation, and increasing information-sharing,” according to an Aug. 8 Defense Department release.
Several U.S. Navy ships, including destroyers and salvage ships, have made port calls to Vietnamese ports in recent years.
The upcoming visit may be the first visit of an operational U.S. Navy aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam since the 1953, when USS Saipan delivered AU-1 attack aircraft to the French forces fighting the Viet Minh guerrillas in then-Indochina. During the Vietnam War, aircraft carriers did not pull into Vietnamese ports, but used Subic Bay in the Philippines for rest and resupply. Some former escort carriers used as aircraft transports made port calls to deliver aircraft to Vietnam. One was sunk in a river by a Viet Cong mine but later refloated.
The United States and Vietnam have increased military contacts in recent years, motivated by mutual concern over increased Chinese encroachment in the South China Sea, where China has converted several reefs into islands that now serve as military bases. The United States and Vietnam have slowly increased defense cooperation, despite U.S. concern over the condition of human rights in Vietnam.
Chinese encroachment on the South China Sea reefs and islands began in January 1974 when China seized the Paracel Islands off Vietnam. South Vietnam failed to retake the islands in a naval amphibious action.
“The Secretary highlighted the robust level of peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, and Coast Guard cooperation, including the recent transfer of a former U.S. Coast Guard cutter to improve Vietnam’s maritime law enforcement capabilities,” the Defense Department release said. “The two leaders agreed a strong U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship promotes regional and global security. This relationship is based on mutual respect and common interests, including the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea and globally; respect for international law; and recognition of national sovereignty. The Secretary welcomed Vietnam’s engagement and growing leadership in the Asia-Pacific region