US aircraft carrier leaves Vietnam, wrapping up historic visit

By Nguyen Dong   March 9, 2018 | 02:37 am PT
US aircraft carrier leaves Vietnam, wrapping up historic visit
U.S. aircraft carrier leaves Tien Sa Port in Da Nang City in central Vietnam on September 3. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong
'We have gone from former enemies to close partners,' the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam said.

U.S. aircraft carrier the USS Carl Vinson and two U.S. naval combat ships carrying 6,500 crew members departed Da Nang on Friday following an historic five-day port call.

The visit attracted global attention by marking a milestone in the diplomatic relationship between Vietnam and the U.S.

Since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, the Vinson is the first aircraft carrier to return to the country.

Professor Carlyle Thayer from the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, said the USS Carl Vinson is sending a message that the U.S. will maintain its naval presence in the South China Sea and that Vietnam supports the presence of the U.S. Navy for regional peace and stability. The waters are known as the East Sea in Vietnam.

"Vietnam has been reassured by the Trump administration that it will enhance their comprehensive partnership," he said. "This visit signals that the United States intends to remain engaged in Southeast Asia."

The U.S. Navy visit arrived shortly after U.S. Defence Secretary James Mattis touched down in Hanoi in January, marking significant improvements in bilateral military relationships, experts said.

“The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam," Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, said.

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

“It's a pretty big and historic step, since a carrier has not been here for 40 years,” said Rear Admiral John V. Fuller, the commander of the Carl Vinson strike group.

During their stay in Vietnam, U.S. sailors visited a shelter for people suffering from the effects of Agent Orange in Da Nang.

"I think it's very powerful to see the circumstances in which we're here today compared to, say, 40 years ago," said a sailor named Gordon Watkins.

A U.S. Navy band also performed a rendition of "Noi Vong Tay Lon", a Vietnamese song about national unity which was popular during the war.

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