The Pentagon announced on Thursday that the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson will visit the port of Da Nang in March in the first ever visit of a US carrier to Vietnam.

The decision was made during a meeting between US Secretary of Defense James Mattis and Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense Ngo Xuan Lich on Thursday. Mattis is on a two-day trip to the country where he also met with President Tran Dai Quang.

“Consistent with the growing defense relationship, both leaders agreed to work toward a visit by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson to Da Nang in March 2018,” the Defense Department statement said.

The Pentagon said Mattis and Lich also discussed the regional security environment during their get together. They said they would enhance defense cooperation based on a three-year plan of action agreed upon in October 2017, with a focus on maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations.

“Secretary Mattis highlighted the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which reaffirms the United States’ commitment to work with partners such as Vietnam to sustain the rules-based order in a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the Pentagon statement added.

The US deployed a number of aircraft carriers off Vietnam’s coast during the Indochina War. However, none of the carriers ever docked in South Vietnamese ports. Other US warships have visited Vietnam as the two continue to step up military cooperation to counter Beijing in the South China Sea. But the visit of the Nimitz-class super carrier Carl Vinson to Vietnam carries considerably more symbolic importance.

Asia Times - January 26, 2018