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USS Carl Vinson on Historic Visit to Vietnam

The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018.
The US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson arrives at a port in Danang, Vietnam March 5, 2018.

A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is paying a visit to a Vietnamese port for the first time since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, seen by many as both countries' efforts to stem expansionism by China in the South China Sea.

The nuclear-powered USS Carl Vinson with more than 6,000 crew members, accompanied by a cruiser and a destroyer, anchored off the central Vietnamese port city of Danang Monday for a five-day visit.

Although this is the first time a U.S. aircraft carrier has made a port call to Vietnam, smaller U.S. warships have made visited as ties between the former foes have improved in recent years.

Those port calls include a 2016 visit by submarine tender USS Frank Cable and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain to Cam Ranh Bay, a U.S. logistics complex during the Vietnam War.

Sailors from the American carrier are scheduled to spend time at a treatment center for people who were exposed to Agent Orange, the toxic defoliant sprayed over large swathes of land by the U.S. military during the war, and at an orphanage.

They will also play basketball and soccer games with locals, while the navy band will give concert performances.

The visit comes at a time when neighboring China, which claims most of the South China Sea, is increasing its military buildup in the Paracel islands and has built seven artificial islands in the Spratlys, maritime territory also claimed by Vietnam.

Vietnamese envoys have been working to ease Chinese concerns over the visit and the prospect of broader security cooperation between Hanoi and Washington, according to diplomats and others familiar with the talks.