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2018-03-07 HKT 12:23
Beijing is unhappy with the first visit by a US aircraft carrier to a Vietnamese port since the Vietnam War and is monitoring developments, the Global Times tabloid said on Wednesday.
However, its editorial said the USS Carl Vinson's visit was unlikely to alter the balance of power in the South China Sea, which China claims virtually in its entirety and has been fortifying with military structures on man-made islands.
"China's vigilance and unhappiness are inevitable, but we don't think that the USS Carl Vinson's Vietnam trip can stir up troubles in the South China Sea," the paper said.
The visit "will not generate any special tools to pressure China," while the US sending warships to the South China Sea will "only waste money," the paper said.
Vietnam and China have extensive overlapping claims to islands and resources in the sea, and US officials say the port call is a sign of Washington's commitment to the region and US-Vietnam ties.
"Carl Vinson being here, me being here, this is about Vietnam. This is about our relationship with Vietnam, both from a military relationship and from a comprehensive partnership relationship," Vice Adm Phillip Sawyer, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told reporters in a conference call from the Vietnamese port of Da Nang, where the ship is docked.
Sawyer and other officials have not linked the ship's visit to China's activities in the South China Sea, but he did note Washington's concerns over China's moves to put teeth behind its territorial claims and unanswered questions about China's purpose in its rapid military expansion and upgrading.
"My view on that is both those, land reclamation and the militarization, cause angst within the region. And the angst that it causes is really because of lack of transparency," Sawyer said.
"It's not quite clear what's going to happen down there. And I think that angst and that lack of transparency is potentially disruptive to the security and stability of the region. And that, that causes concern," he said.
The visit by the USS Carl Vinson with more than 5,000 crewmembers marks the largest U.S. military presence in Vietnam since the Southeast Asian nation was unified under Communist leadership after the war ended in 1975.
Accompanied by a cruiser and a destroyer, the ship is visiting as China completes work on air bases, radar stations and other infrastructure that could prove key in a military conflict in the Paracel islands and seven artificial islands in the Spratlys in maritime territory also claimed by Vietnam.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan also claim waters and islands in the South China Sea that China says belong to it. (AP)