Docks at Saigon. Greeted warmly. Home movies and photographs taken. Fun had by all.
An American warship made a rare visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, a sign the two countries are looking to improve military ties 30 years after the Vietnam War.
Sailors dressed in white lined the decks of the USS Gary as the frigate docked in Saigon Port, where it is to remain for five days. The warship was just the third Navy vessel to make a port call in the communist country since the war ended on April 30, 1975.
The Stars and Stripes flew alongside the Vietnamese flag as the ship eased up the muddy Saigon River. Many of the more than 200 sailors aboard snapped pictures or videotaped its arrival.
The two sides signed a landmark bilateral trade agreement in 2001, and business has exploded in recent years. But work in the sensitive area of military cooperation has only just begun.
As the United States and Vietnam find common ground on issues of counterterrorism and regional stability, future military ties will likely include more ship visits and high-level exchanges such as Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra’s historic trip to Washington in 2003.
“The most important thing for both of our nations and peoples to do is to continue to look forward, not backward,” U.S. Ambassador Michael Marine said.
Some in Vietnam believe the U.S. military may be looking to their country as a future strategic area to establish a base to counter growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia. But Marine said that was not the case.
This is very good news. Normalization with Vietnam was pushed by Senators McCain and Kerry, and this happy news is a result of their work.
There is little need to contain China, but that does not mean we can be wreckless. We should hedge against future disasters and quietly remind China that peace is in its interests. Through demonstrating our security intention in lands surrounding China — from Mongolia to Korea to Taiwan to India to Kyrgyzstan, and maybe soon to Vietnam, we discourage Chinese military ambitions. This funnels Chinese ambitions into peaceful economics, increases security, and builds a future worth creating.