The United States is giving Vietnam’s coastguard a second cutter vessel, U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper said last Wednesday, vowing to maintain a regular military presence in the disputed South China Sea.
“This ship represents another concrete symbol for our strengthening relationship,” Esper said during a speech to a group of students at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi. “Not only does this cooperation enhance the security of Vietnam and the broader region, but it also builds trust and mutual respect, which creates harmony between our people,” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said.
The Vietnam Coast Guard received the first cutter in May 2017. The decommissioned U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class cutter Morgenthau was initially commissioned in 1969.
The ship was renamed to CSB 8020 and used by Vietnam Coast Guard to support maritime awareness and increase its capacity to perform maritime law enforcement operations.
Esper also vowed Washington would continue conducting freedom of navigation operations in the disputed waterway.
The donated US Coast Cutter ship, which will be turned over next year, is the latest example of ramped up political and defense ties between the U.S. and Vietnam.
China has built military installations, rammed vessels, sent survey ships into the disputed areas in the resource-rich waterway, where parts of these vast are are also claimed by several countries in Southeast Asia, including the Philippines.