For the first time since the Vietnam War, a U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Carl Vinson, has docked in Danang, Vietnam — with a cruiser and a destroyer in tow. This has been part of the ongoing efforts to bolster the relationship between the United States and Vietnam, and the DOD says that its mission is one of cultural exchange, as well as visiting the center for victims of Agent Orange.

Navy Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said that, “Our nations’ relationship has reached new heights in the past few years, and USS Carl Vinson’s port visit to Vietnam is a reflection of that … I am confident that engagements like this will further expand the comprehensive partnership between the United States and Vietnam.”

It is also likely that the U.S. is reminding the western Pacific that it is still a major power there. Particularly China, who has been building up their own naval forces in the area. The Chinese Navy has continued to boost their presence in the South China Sea (just east of Vietnam, but west of the Philippines). There, they have constructed man-made islands on top of reefs, turning them into strategically placed military bases. While there have been multiple disputes regarding these moves, the U.S. has not taken sides in such matters — however they do continue to urge neighboring nations to allow freedom of movement from all nations throughout the area. Judging by the U.S.’s own movement through, they obviously do not give China recognition as any sole authority over those seas.

There is no doubt that China controls the water in this area, but formidable American naval forces continue to make their presence known.

The U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel Kritenbrink said that, “I think the visit by USS Carl Vinson demonstrates our commitment to the U.S.-Vietnam partnership. It also demonstrates the dramatic progress we made in our bilateral relationship in recent years.” Kritenbrink also pointed out that Vietnam and the U.S. both have “a desire to maintain peace, prosperity, unimpeded commerce, freedom of navigation upon which the region and its economies depend.”

While this the first time a ship of this magnitude has sailed these waters since the Vietnam War, in 2016 a submarine tender and a destroyer also visited — the USS Frank Cable and the USS John S. McCain.

An American navy officer is silhouetted aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson as it docks in Danang bay, Vietnam on Monday, March 5, 2018. For the first time since the Vietnam War, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is paying a visit to a Vietnamese port, seeking to bolster both countries’ efforts to stem expansionism by China in the South China Sea. (AP Photo/ Hau Dinh)

Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.