China's rapid construction and build-up of the land it holds in the disputed Spratly islands group has alarmed Vietnam and other regional governments as it seeks to enforce its claims to much of the disputed waterway, through which some $3 trillion in trade passes each year.
In its National Security Strategy (NSS) paper, released last December, the Trump administration identified Vietnam as a "cooperative maritime partner", underlining Hanoi's emergence as a key player in preserving the existing order in the East Asian seascape.
"They are anxious about where China is going, and they have wanted for years now to have a better relationship with the United States".
Analysts say the USS Carl Vinson's landmark visit also sends a signal to China, whose aggressive land reclamation and military buildup activities in the South China Sea have alarmed smaller regional neighbors and represent an increasing challenge to US naval dominance in the Pacific.
Smaller US navy ships have visited Vietnam but this is the first by a carrier. In this regard, both sides supported the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and look forward to an early conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. Duterte has refused to implement a landmark 2016 global tribunal ruling in Manila's favour over its competing claims with Beijing.
Vietnam is among the claimants that has stood up most publicly against China, after the Philippines - long one of most ardent critics of Chinese expansion in the area - reversed course under President Rodrigo Duterte.
"Other countries will need to do more to counteract China".
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The ship, which is called the Carl Vinson, will dock off Danang, which is the main Vietnam port that has been the landing area for American ships for many years. Washington normalized relations with Vietnam in 1995 and lifted an arms embargo in 2016.
In Vietnam, the United States sees an opportunity to join forces over a common problem and push back against China's growing influence in Asia.
In addition to Vietnam, the United States is also tightening military cooperation with long-standing allies Australia, Japan and India. The port call will mark the largest US military presence in Vietnam since the nearly two decade-long war ended in 1975. The high-profile symbolism of the USA attempting to check China's power in the region is not lost among analysts.
In a remarkable reflection of burgeoning strategic relations between former foes, America deployed an aircraft carrier group to Vietnam for the first time in more than four decades.
"The carrier has not been here [in Vietnam] for 40 years".
They also engaged in exchanges with the crew members to enhance mutual understanding in the spirit of the bilateral Comprehensive Partnership and as an effort to maintain peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world.