U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson makes historic port call in Vietnam

The USS Carl Vinson - the U.S. Navy's massive, nuclear powered aircraft carrier - arrived in Vietnam on Monday, marking the first time such a ship has docked in the country since the Vietnam War.

The relationship between Vietnam and the U.S. has reached new levels in recent years and the visit of the USS Carl Vinson is proof, Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said.

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

On Friday, a Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman said that she hoped that the visit can "play a constructive role for the region instead of making the regional countries feel anxious". It will anchor just off Danang, where US Marines landed 53 years ago this month - the first direct involvement by American combat troops in the war.

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The Navy now makes regular, small-scale visits to Vietnam that the service calls "Naval Engagement Activities". But it also illustrates Hanoi's complex and evolving relationship with Beijing over the disputed South China Sea.

The visit includes a number of cultural and community events, such as basketball and soccer matches between USA sailors and locals, an orphanage visit and naval band concerts.

This drives Vietnam to cooperate more closely with the USA and Japan as it seeks diplomatic leverage against China.

There will also be official meetings between the carrier strike group leadership, Vietnamese Navy Zone 3 and the Danang People's Committee.

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Its visit to Vietnam comes amid concerns in the capital about China's efforts to militarize disputed islands, which received support from fellow members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in January. Last year, the US transferred a decommissioned Coast Guard cutter to Vietnam and signed a three-year plan for defense cooperation.

Separately from this week's mission, US officials have said American warships would continue sailing without prior notice close to the China-occupied islands and atolls, an aggressive way of signaling to Beijing that it does not recognize its sovereignty over those areas.

The Vietnam War - which Vietnam calls the American War - was protracted and bloody. "Both sides agreed to further enhance defence ties, including through exchanges of senior-level defence delegations, regular senior-level dialogues, cooperation between the two armed forces, port calls of naval and Coast Guard ships, capacity building projects, procurement of equipment, transfer of technology and cooperation in regional fora, including ADMM plus", said a joint statement.

Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, echoed the sentiment. The Carl Vinson carries over 5,000 sailors, which is the largest contingent of American soldiers to land in Vietnam since USA troops withdrew in 1975. The Ronald Reagan began its Selected Restricted Availability maintenance period in January at Yokosuka Naval Base after completing its fall patrol late a year ago.

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