The United States Seventh Fleet and the Vietnamese People’s Navy began a five day long series of naval engagement activities last Sunday in commemoration of fifteen years of normalized relations between the two countries.
In what are the first training exchanges between both navies since the end of the Vietnam War, activities are mostly focused on building friendship with damage control exercises, search and rescue operations, medical and maintenance projects as well as mutual visits and sporting events.
Several Vietnamese dignitaries and military leaders visited the aircraft carrier USS George Washington on Sunday to observe the strike group operating in the South China Sea; recently site to renewed discord between China and its neighboring states, among them Vietnam.
Because of the mounting tension in the region, the Vietnamese have shown an interest in the Quadrilateral Initiative which Australia, India, Japan and the United States launch in May 2007 in Manilla to counterbalance China’s naval ambitions. Last April, Vietnamese officials visited the USS John C. Stennis near Con Dao island off the Mekong Delta coast, chatting with American sailors about “strengthening mutual understanding” and “cooperating for peace in the region and world.”
Although communist like China, relations between the two countries haven’t much improved since the brief Sino-Vietnamese War of 1979. Border disputes and regional rivalry continue to be cause for mutual mistrust.
Mere decades after the Vietnam War ended, relations between Vietnam and the United States appear to be rapidly improving by contrast. Admiral Ron Horton, commander of the Seventh Fleet’s logistics force, Task Force 73, said so much this weekend, noting that, “Exchanges like this are vital for our navies to gain a greater understanding of one another and build important relationships for the future.”