Changing Times as US Aircraft Carrier Visits Vietnam after 54 Years
Times are changing. What was unthinkable three decades back being now in the realm of reality The US was embroiled in a war in Vietnam to stop the spread of communism. At one time over 500,000 US troops were in South Vietnam but after a decade the US military and think tank concluded that the war was not winnable. They signed a peace accord that ultimately led to the North taking over South Vietnam. At that time Vietnam was the enemy of America and the war itself created a big divide in America. Many wanted to know the reason why the US was fighting in Vietnam and for who.
The US retreat led to complete collapse of the South Vietnam regime which was easily overrun by Ho Chi Minh's troops.Relations remained frosty for decades but slowly the thaw set in. Vietnam made overtures, as it is threatened by China in the South China Sea and the two countries also fought a war in 1983. World military has reported that next month the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will visit the Da Nang Port from 5-9 March 2018. It will be the first visit by a US carrier after 1964.The visit after 54 years marks a new dawn in US-Vietnam relations and is not to the liking of China.
The US has unveiled its strategy of countering China in the South China Sea and Eastern Pacific. As part of the policy, the US has lifted the arms embargo on Vietnam in 2016. This is a significant step and now Vietnam can buy sophisticated weaponry from the USA. The reason for this is that the US is concerned with growing power of China and its aggressive intentions in South China. The Chinese have presented a fait accompli to the peripheral nations around the SC sea and the USA, by occupying islands and reclaiming many islands from the sea. They have gone ahead and militarized the islands and also built airstrips for jet fighter operation.
This policy seems to be a belated action. It looks that the US is formulating a plan to counter China when China has already achieved 90% of its objective. One is reminded that President Duterte had said that in case the US was serious earlier, why did it not send five aircraft carriers in the China sea and nip Chinese expansionism in the bud?
The change in strategy has come with Trump and Mattis.The visit of the carrier which is currently docked in Manila will irk China. General Mattis had visited Hanoi the capital of Vietnam in January and in meetings with his counterpart Vietnamese Défense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich had agreed on the visit of the US carrier. The warship in Vietnamese waters will give a boost to Vietnam which feels threatened by China. But one wonders whether this is enough to deter China
None of the nations around the SC sea namely Vietnam, Philippines, Borneo, Formosa, and Singapore can militarily match China. The US which has been a stringent critic of Chinese policy is the only power that can effectively contain China.
The South China Sea is very important for both trade and natural resources. China has already seized many islands and at that time the US president Barak Obama never realized the gravity of the situation. Under Donald Trump, the Pentagon has formulated a new strategy to counter China in the SC Sea and eastern Pacific.
Matters have already started hotting up and CNN reported that last month Beijing accused the US of trespassing after an American warship sailed near the disputed Scarborough Shoal. This is an uninhabited reef that China seized from the Philippines in 2012. The US has made it clear that it does not recognize China’s claims and will continue its freedom of navigation exercise in the SC Sea. The visit of the carrier to Da Nang Port is part of that strategy.