US defense secretary visits Cam Ranh Bay

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US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta arrived Sunday morning at a former US air and naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in the south central province of Khanh Hoa.

He visited USNS Richard E. Byrd, a United States Navy cargo ship that docked at the Cam Ranh Bay last month for regular maintenance and minor repairs.

Panetta is the seniormost American official to visit Cam Ranh Bay since the war ended in 1975.

The Defense Secretary said he hopes to encourage efforts with Vietnam to locate and identify more of the US war dead who are still missing, according to AP.

The secretary is also looking to discuss military-to-military relations and the issue of maritime cooperation with Vietnamese leaders.

"This is a very significant visit in our estimation," a news release on the US Department of Defense's website quoted a senior defense official as saying.

"We are making significant progress in our military relationship with Vietnam."

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