WASHINGTON, Aug. 18, 2010 — A week after USS John S. McCain made its first port visit to Vietnam to commemorate the 15th anniversary of normalized diplomatic relations between the United States and Vietnam, senior defense officials from the two countries met yesterday to explore ways to further enhance their defense cooperation.
Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for South and Southeast Asia, met in Hanoi with Vietnam’s deputy defense minister, Lt. Gen. Nguyen Chi Vinh. Speaking during a joint news conference, Scher called the discussions “the next significant historic step” in advancing a growing defense relationship based on “mutual trust, understanding and respect for independence and sovereignty.”
The talks focused on ways to strengthen military-to-military cooperation in areas such as search-and-rescue, humanitarian and disaster-relief operations as well as language training, Scher reported.
Scher said he also shared U.S. concerns about China’s military build-up. Yesterday’s talks built on issues discussed in December when Vietnamese Defense Minister Gen. Phung Quang Thanh traveled to the U.S. Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii to meet with Navy Adm. Robert F. Willard, Pacom’s commander.
The Vietnamese defense minister, who also visited military bases during his three-day visit, “indicated a desire for activities that foster greater understanding and cooperation in various areas such as disaster management, conflict resolution, trafficking in persons, and improving relations with its neighbors,” Willard reported during congressional testimony in March.
“Our military-to-military relationship with Vietnam continues to improve,” Willard told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Earlier this month, for example, the U.S. 7th Fleet kicked off a weeklong series of naval engagement activities with the Vietnamese navy commemorating the 15th anniversary of normalized relations between the United States and Vietnam. The activities, which began Aug. 8, centered on damage control, search and rescue, maintenance and cooking events and other noncombatant training, Navy officials reported. Medical and dental civic action projects, an underway aircraft carrier embarkation, ship visits and sporting events highlighted the visit.
During the exchange, the guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain made a scheduled port visit to Vietnam.
The ship, forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, arrived in Da Nang on Aug. 10 for its first visit to Vietnam. The crew interacted with their Vietnamese counterparts during shipboard damage control and search-and-rescue demonstrations as well as soccer and volleyball matches, Navy officials reported. They also conducted community service projects at a local school and orphanage.
Navy Rear Adm. Ron Horton, commander of Task Force 73 and Logistics Group Western Pacific, called the activities “indicative of the increasingly closer ties between the U.S. and Vietnam.”
“Exchanges like this are vital for our navies to gain a greater understanding of one another, and build important relationships for the future,” he said.
In addition, the hospital ship USNS Mercy visited Vietnam in June, spending 13 days delivering humanitarian and civic assistance ashore as part of Pacific Partnership 2010. During the visit — the Pacific Partnership’s third to Vietnam — more than 1,000 medical, dental, veterinary and engineering professionals from the U.S. military services, nongovernmental organizations and partner nations provided support to residents of Binh Dinh province on Vietnam’s central coast.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)