US Aircraft Docked in Vietnam

US officers and sailors are welcome at Tien Sa port. Font Size

Sailors will also visit a center for victims of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the US military during the war, according to a report in The New York Times.

Smartphone-wielding locals gathered on high ground overlooking Danang Bay in central Vietnam to witness the arrival of the nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson.

"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.

"Through hard work, mutual respect, and by continuing to address the past while we work towards a better future, we have gone from former enemies to close partners", he continued.

Fighter jets on board the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

While some Chinese commentators have used the Vinson's presence to demand an even greater Chinese military build-up in the South China Sea, official reaction from Beijing has been relatively muted since the stop was announced in January.

In recent years, the United States and Vietnam have worked to improve relations that were normalized in 1995.

"It's a USA 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.

The Carl Vinson carries 6,000 crew members, stretches more than 1,000 feet and weighs more than 100,000 tons. Last year, the USA transferred a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam and signed a three-year plan for defense cooperation.

The sailors and Marines will participate in cultural exchanges with their Vietnamese counterparts, and some personnel will visit a center for victims of Agent Orange - a defoliant that American planes sprayed on the jungle to remove cover.

The United States hasn't taken any official position on South China Sea territorial claims but conducts "freedom of navigation" operations in the waterways by sailing ships without notice through disputed areas.

Navy musicians from the USA 7th Fleet Band will perform free concerts for the public as well.

The two sides also reaffirmed their determination and efforts to further cooperate in maintaining peace, stability and development in the Indo-Pacific region, where China is at loggerheads with Vietnam, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines.

Separately from this week's mission, USA officials have said American warships would continue sailing without prior notice close to the China-occupied islands and atolls, an aggressive way of signaling to Beijing that it does not recognize its sovereignty over those areas. Analysts say the port call, which follows a visit to the Philippines last month, is a chance for the United States to flex its military muscle in Asia.

"During the war, I was scared when I saw American soldiers", said Tran Thi Luyen, 55, who runs a small coffee shop in the city.

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