U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has announced increased maritime security assistance for Vietnam and other nations in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN.
At a press conference in Hanoi Monday with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Binh Minh, Kerry said Washington will provide Vietnam with $18 million, including five fast patrol boats for its Coast Guard.
Other ASEAN nations will get about $14.5 million in assistance to protect their territorial waters.
Kerry denied the new assistance is related to recent tensions with China over maritime territorial disputes, saying the move was part of a "gradual and deliberate expansion" of U.S. support that has been planned for some time.
He said "peace and stability in the South China Sea is a top priority" for Washington. He also expressed opposition to what he called "coercive and aggressive tactics to advance territorial claims".
China has been at the center of several recent territorial disputes, including its new Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, which is opposed by Japan, South Korea and the U.S.
Beijing has had long running tensions with its neighbors, including Vietnam, over its territorial claims to most of the South China Sea.
Kerry will travel next to the Philippines, where he will tour typhoon-ravaged Tacloban before returning to Washington.