The United States is hoping to gain more access for its Navy ships into a key port in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, a place described by a defense official as “the jewel of deep, warm-water ports in Southeast Asia.”
The Pentagon is hoping to broaden its military partnership with Vietnam. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made the following statement during a visit to the dry cargo ship Richard Byrd on June 3, while it made a port call at Cam Ranh Bay: “[Naval ship access at Cam Ranh Bay] is a key component of this relationship and we see a tremendous potential here for the future.”
During the Vietnam War, Cam Ranh Bay, which is protected by mountains, served as a hub for U.S. military operations. Since 2003, the United States Navy has been sending ships for port visits to Vietnam. More than 20 vessels have visited the country since then. Today, Vietnam hopes to turn the bay into a prosperous international commercial port.
“We’ve come a long way, particularly with regards to our defense relationship… We had a complicated relationship, but we’re not bound by that history,” Panetta shared further. “We want to work with Vietnam on critical maritime issues, including code of conduct, focusing on the South China Sea and also working to improve freedom of navigation in our oceans.”
Panetta said that the United States and Vietnam signed a memorandum of understanding last year, focusing on such areas as high-level exchanges, maritime activities, search and rescue, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid and disaster relief, and the United States is hoping to “expand that relationship” in several key areas.