This post has been updated to clarify Vietnam’s foreign navy policy. One ship per foreign navy is allowed to visit annually.
USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) is expected to pull into Da Nang, Vietnam, for a port visit this week, U.S Indo-Pacific commander Adm. Phil Davidson confirmed on Tuesday.
Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Vietnam mark’s the second time a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier has visited the nation since the end of the Vietnam War. In 2018, USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) visited Da Nang. U.S. destroyers began making port calls in Vietnam in 2004.
Speaking at West 2020, Davidson confirmed details on the pending visit first reported by the BBC’s Vietnamese language news service.
Vietnamese policy allows one ship per foreign navy to visit a year. While the U.S. government has pushed for an annual aircraft carrier visit to Vietnam, the Vietnamese government has been reluctant to agree, according to a background briefing by Carlyle Thayer, head of Thayer Consultancy, an Australia-based defense consulting firm.
Theodore Roosevelt’s visit doesn’t necessarily mean a shift in Vietnam’s position, Thayer writes, but the visit does send an important message.
“The United States is signaling that it intends to remain the pre-eminent naval power in the Western Pacific and South China Sea. Vietnam is signaling that it supports the presence of the U.S. Navy in the South China Sea as long as it contributes to peace and stability,” Thayer writes.
Roughly 200 miles away from Da Nang is China’s Hainan island and the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. Both China and Vietnam claim the Paracel Islands, but China currently controls them. The U.S. Navy recently increased the frequency of freedom of navigation operations in the region, including passes by the Paracel Islands.
Chinese officials are dismissive of the role the U.S. plays in maintaining peace and security in the region. Chinese defense ministry officials routinely criticize U.S. military operations in the South China Sea.
“On the South China Sea, the overall situation is improving towards greater stability thanks to the concerted efforts made by China and other countries in the region,” said Senior Colonel Wu Qian, the spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense, according to the official English-language transcript of a media briefing Friday. “The U.S., out of self-interest, does not want a peaceful and stable South China Sea. It has sent warships and aircraft to carry out hegemonic navigation operations in the region, and held targeted military exercises and joint patrols together with countries outside the region. These facts have proven that the U.S. is the true trouble-maker undermining regional peace and stability in the South China Sea and the black hand behind the militarization in the region.”