U.S., Vietnam Explore Enhanced Defense Cooperation

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.

USS John S. McCain
Sailors aboard the guid­ed-mis­sile destroy­er USS John S. McCain man the rails as the ship tran­sits into the port of Da Nang, Viet­nam, Aug. 10, 2010, to com­mem­o­rate the 15th anniver­sary nor­mal­ized rela­tions between the Unit­ed States and Viet­nam and to con­duct the first train­ing exchange between the U.S. and Viet­namese navies.
U.S. Navy pho­to by Pet­ty Offi­cer 1st Class Brock A. Tay­lor
Click to enlarge

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)

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