US Aircraft Docked in Vietnam

U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at a port in Danang Vietnam

The carrier's arrival demonstrates the USA and Vietnam's strengthened military ties, and is likely welcome news to neighboring countries that are nervously eyeing China's military rise in the region.

Sailors will also visit a center for victims of Agent Orange, a defoliant used by the US military during the war, according to a report in The New York Times.

China's military buildup in the South China Sea alarms smaller countries in the area and challenges USA naval dominance in the Pacific.

U.S. aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at a port in Danang Vietnam

The port call is seen as both a landmark in evolving U.S. -Vietnam relations and a strong message to China, which is taking aggressive action to seize control over the entire South China Sea.

"The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates US support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam", Daniel Kritenbrink, the USA ambassador to Vietnam, told the ceremony. It is now Vietnam's third-largest city and a place many people visit for vacation.

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

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In recent years, the United States and Vietnam have worked to improve relations that were normalized in 1995. In this way Hanoi aims to deepen the stakes of other major powers in protecting its resources and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Danang, which was a major USA military base during the war, is now Vietnam's third-largest city and is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and hotels pop up along its scenic coastline. Vietnam, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand and Singapore have disputes in the area. In 2016, former President Obama lifted a decades-old ban on military equipment sales to Vietnam and last year, the two countries signed a three-year plan for defense cooperation.

"I'm not going to speak specifically to China", Rear Admiral John Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson strike group, told reporters Monday.

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Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, said he was "happy and excited" about the visit. "They might be irritated but gradualism is the key word here.Vietnam will only embrace the a pace that doesn't cause an over-reaction from China".

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Friday that China hopes the "exchanges between [the US and Vietnam] would contribute to regional peace and stability in a positive and constructive way, instead of adding any unsettling factors".

The visit is meant to demonstrate the countries' growing military ties.

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