The Defense Department hopes to gain greater access for Navy ships into key port Cam Ranh Bay as the Pentagon looks to broaden its military partnership with Vietnam
U.S. naval ship access into Cam Ranh Bay “is a key component of this relationship and we see a tremendous potential here for the future,” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said during a recent visit to the dry cargo ship Richard Byrd, which is making a port call there.
Panetta is the highest-ranking U.S. government official to visit Cam Ranh Bay since the Vietnam War. President Lyndon Johnson visited Cam Ranh Bay in 1966.
Many considered Cam Ranh Bay “the jewel of deep, warm-water ports in Southeast Asia,” a defense official said. Protected by mountains, the bay served as a hub for U.S. military operations during the Vietnam War. Now, Vietnam is trying to develop the bay into a prosperous international commercial port.
Last year, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding, and the United States is looking to “expand that relationship” in a number of key areas, Panetta said. The pact focuses on high-level exchanges, maritime activities, search and rescue, peacekeeping operations and humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
“[W]e 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.