Vietnam, US enhance naval ties

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The US and Vietnamese Navies commenced a week of cooperative exercises on Sunday (August 8) in the East Sea.

A press release issued by the US 7th fleet Department of Public Affairs described the activities as part of a commemoration of the 15th anniversary of normalization of relations between the two countries.

"The activities are centered around non-combat training, such as damage control, search and rescue, and skills exchanges like cooking and maintenance events," the release announced.

The schedule will also include friendship-building events such as medical and dental civic action projects, ship visits and US-Vietnamese Navy sporting competitions.

The ceremonies commenced as a plane full of government and military leaders flew from the central port city of Da Nang to the aircraft carrier USS George Washington to observe the fleet as it operated in the East Sea.

On Tuesday (August 10th) the Destroyer USS John S. McCain docked in Da Nang. The battleship is named after the father of US Senator John McCain, who was imprisoned in Hanoi during the Vietnam War.

"This is indicative of the increasingly closer ties between the US and Vietnam," said Rear Adm. Ron Horton, commander, Task Force 73 and commander, Logistics Group Western Pacific. "Exchanges like this are vital for our navies to gain a greater understanding of one another, and build important relationships for the future."

US Senator John McCain said that the Vietnam visit paid by the US warship named for his father and grandfather was a "historic and hopeful" sign for ties between the two countries, AFP reported on August 10.

"Vietnam has become one of America's most important and most promising emerging partners in the Asia-Pacific region," the Arizona Republican said in a statement. "Today's port call is certainly rich with historical significance, especially for my family and me. But the real importance of this ship's visit can and should be measured by what it signals about the future of the US-Vietnam relationship."

The US Navy has paid several visits to Vietnam in recent years.

The Navy conducted two port visits to Vietnam in 2008. In 2009, the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) hosted the first-ever fly out of visitors from Vietnam to a US aircraft carrier. During November of the same year, the US 7th Fleet command flagship, the USS Blue Ridge, and the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen, commanded by Vietnamese-American Cmdr. H.B. Le docked in the port.

The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) also visited Vietnam in May 2010 as part of a large-scale humanitarian aid mission.

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