Two US Navy warships have docked at a Vietnamese naval base, the first such port call since the normalization of relations 21 years ago.
Submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain entered a deep water base in Cam Ranh Bay in Khanh Hoa province on Sunday, the US Navy said in a statement on Tuesday.
Before entering the Cam Ranh Bay, USS John S. McCain also made a port call in nearby Da Nang City, according to the statement.
The coastal city, perched strategically on the South China Sea, is where US combat forces first arrived in Vietnam in 1965. The US carried out an eight-year military intervention in the country from 1965 to 1973, killing thousands of Vietnamese people.
Diplomatic ties between the two countries were restored in 1995.
The US and Vietnam started to improve their naval ties after US President Barack Obama declared the complete removal of America’s arms embargo against the “extremely important” ally in a three-day visit back in May.
Before the arrival of American warships, Cam Ranh Bay had been used by Russian and French navies.
The visit by American vessels came shortly after the Hanoi government decided to make the base available to visiting foreign navy vessels in a bid to maintain a stronger presence in the South China Sea, amid maritime disputes with China.
The US has reached out to Vietnam and other countries surrounding the South China Sea such as Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines in order to counter China’s sovereignty claims over the waters.
Washington has also sent several of its warships to the region to protect what it calls “freedom of navigation” in the sea, which serves as a gateway for trillions of dollars in maritime trade every year.
China, in response, has condemned America’s meddling in regional issues, accusing Washington of deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.