US to bolster maritime support for Vietnam, with possible warship visit this summer

The U.S. Navy is planning two major port calls in central Vietnam this year as it seeks to strengthen maritime relations, a U.S. admiral said.

One of the security priorities the U.S. wants to focus on in 2019 is enhancing Vietnam’s military capabilities and pursuing opportunities for military training and cooperation consistent with Vietnam’s priorities and capacity, Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, said.

The key areas that the U.S. wants to support Vietnam are maritime security and maritime domain awareness, defined by the International Maritime Organization as the effective understanding of anything associated with the maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy, or environment.

This will help Vietnam protect its sovereignty, deter aggression, and promote regional and global security, he said at a Thursday press meeting in Ho Chi Minh City.

He stressed that U.S.-Vietnam defense cooperation was based on common strategic interests in upholding Vietnam’s sovereignty and independence and promoting a rules-based international order.

“I commend Vietnam for taking a vocal stand against the malign influence that seeks to constrain international access to the East Sea,” he said, using the Vietnamese name for the South China Sea.

The admiral of America’s oldest and largest military combatant command based in Hawaii expressed specific concerns about China’s recent moves.

“The militarization by China of the East Sea is concerning not only because of the global economic implications, but for what it suggests about the nation’s broader intent to reshape the international rules-based order that has enabled the astonishing economic rise of this region,” he said.

He said China seeks to weaken regional order and the sovereignty of countries, international rights to the global commons as well as the flourishing network of allies, partners and friends who seek a free and open Indo-Pacific. It also seeks to undermine institutions such as Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states.

Such actions affect the security and the right of all nations to trade, to communicate, to develop their natural resources, and to send their financial information and communications through cables under the sea, he said.

Davidson also said Thursday that the U.S. “would welcome the opportunity for another aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam this year,” saying he thinks it “shows the mutual respect that each nation has for each other and the depth of our growing partnership.”

A day earlier in the central province of Khanh Hoa, home to major military bay Cam Ranh, he told the press that the U.S. Navy wants to send a vessel and crew to Khanh Hoa for an official visit this September and before that, a U.S. aircraft carrier might pay a visit to the province in the summer.

In March last year, the USS Carl Vinson docked in Vietnam, marking the first visit by a U.S. military vessel since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, underscoring the growing strategic ties between the former foes.

The U.S. early this month gave six fast-response Metal Shark patrol boats to Vietnam Coast Guard Region 3, which oversees the country’s waters along the southeastern and south central coast, and offshore waters in the East Sea.

An official from Boeing revealed in late March that the U.S. company is close to sealing a deal to sell unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle, to Vietnam.

Last August, a local newspaper quoted an unnamed U.S. State Department official as saying that Vietnam had signed contracts to buy U.S. military equipment worth $94.7 million. Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry has neither confirmed nor denied the information.

Six Metal Shark patrol boats were also delivered in March last year.

National defense cooperation between the U.S. and Vietnam accelerated in 2017, when the U.S. transferred a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam and the first aircraft carrier visited the country.

The countries will mark 25 years of bilateral relationship next year. Full story:

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