HANOI (Reuters) - The United States has completed its second aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam, the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi said on Wednesday, as the former foes mark 25 years of normalized diplomatic relations.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt and its escorts completed a five-day visit to the central Vietnamese city of Danang on March 9, the embassy said in a statement.
“Visits like these not only strengthen the United States’ partnership with Vietnam, but they also continue to ensure peace and stability and freedom of commerce across the region,” Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said, according to the statement.
The port call follows a stop by the USS Carl Vinson in Vietnam in March 2018, in what was the first such visit since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, underscoring growing strategic ties between Hanoi and Washington at a time when China’s regional influence is rising.
U.S. carriers frequently cross the disputed South China Sea and are routinely shadowed by Chinese navy vessels, naval officers in the region say.
The United States accuses China of militarizing the South China Sea and trying to intimidate Asian neighbors who also have claims to parts of it and might want to exploit its extensive oil and gas reserves.
Vietnam has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s extensive territorial claims to the sea and has been buying U.S. military hardware, such as a Hamilton-class coastguard cutter.
Last year, Vietnam and China became embroiled in a months-long standoff over incursions by Chinese survey vessels into Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
The United States and Vietnam normalized relations in July 1995.
Reporting by James Pearson; Editing by Robert Birsel