U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has pledged $18 million to help Vietnam buy American-made coast guard patrol boats to improve its maritime defense capabilities.
Carter is in the communist state to boost military ties. As part of that effort, he and his Vietnamese counterpart signed a "vision statement" Monday to guide the expansion of bilateral cooperation.
At a naval base in Haiphong, Carter toured a patrol boat that had been rammed and damaged by a Chinese ship during a confrontation last year in waters claimed by Vietnam in the South China Sea.
At the beginning of his 11-day tour of the Asia-Pacific region, Carter called for a halt to land reclamation by all countries who claim territory in the South China Sea. He said the United States opposes militarization and the creation of tensions in the region.
Vietnam is among several countries with island-building projects in the South China Sea. China has the largest projects under way, increasing regional tensions amid concerns of militarization.