Vietnam wins US defense pledges; American aircraft carrier to visit next year

By Reuters, VnExpress   August 9, 2017 | 08:05 am GMT+7
Vietnam wins US defense pledges; American aircraft carrier to visit next year
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis (L) welcomes Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Ngo Xuan Lich at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, U.S. August 8, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

It is believed to be the first visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War ended in 1975.

Vietnam has won the promise of a visit from a U.S. aircraft carrier and deeper defense cooperation from the U.S.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich in Washington on Tuesday that a strong defense relationship was based on common interests that included freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

"The Secretary welcomed Vietnam's engagement and growing leadership in the Asia-Pacific region," a statement from the Pentagon said.

The defense ministers agreed on a visit by a U.S. aircraft carrier to Vietnam next year - the first such visit since the Vietnam War ended in 1975. President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of a carrier visit with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc when they met at the White House in May.

The agreement was consistent with Vietnam's diplomatic strategy of being open to all countries, said Ha Hoang Hop, a Vietnamese political analyst who has advised the government.

"Vietnam is not willing to compromise on issues of sovereignty and also makes its own preparations," he said.

More than $3 trillion in cargo passes through the waterway every year.

Australia, Japan and the U.S. urged Southeast Asia and China on Monday to ensure that a South China Sea code of conduct they have committed to draw up would be legally binding and said they strongly opposed "coercive unilateral actions".

Relations between the United States and Vietnam have improved amid shared concerns about China's expansive claims in the troubled waters.