Concerns about China’s expanding military influence in the South China Sea has led Vietnam and the United States to establish a new defense agreement, bolstering Vietnam’s claims over the portions of the waterway near its shores, and expanding American influence in the region.
In recent years, China has declared sovereignty over the majority of the South China Sea, a large waterway that sees as much as 30 percent of global commerce shipped over its surface. A number of nations, including Japan and the United States, have refused to acknowledge China’s territorial stakes, declaring them illegal according to international law. Vietnam, a nation that is not allied with the United States, has found itself increasingly bullied away from their own legitimate territorial claims. Last month, they were forced to suspend off shore oil drilling as a result of pressure from Beijing.
On Tuesday, American Secretary of Defense James Mattis met with his Vietnamese counterpart, Ngô Xuân Lich, in Washington, wherein an agreement was made that will see an American aircraft carrier visit the Southeast Asian nation in 2018, the first such visit since the conclusion of the Vietnam War in 1975. A visit of this sort was also discussed between President Donald Trump and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a visit to the White House in May. That trip will be the first part of a growing defense agreement.