The Hanoitimes - Although Vietnam has become a common destination for American secretaries of defense, two visits in one year is unusual, according to AP.
US Secretary of Defense James Mattis has arrived in Vietnam for a two-day visit starting October 16, the second such visit this year, aiming to beef up defense cooperation with the former war foe as the Trump administration drums up its new Indo-Pacific strategy.
Unlike his Vietnam trip in January, Mattis is visiting Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s most populous city and economic hub. He is scheduled to visit a Bien Hoa, a major air station for American forces during the war, and meet with his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich.
Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich (L) receives his US counterpart James Mattis in Hanoi in January. Photo: AP
Although Vietnam has become a common destination for American secretaries of defense, two visits in one year is unusual, and Ho Chi Minh City is rarely on the itinerary, AP reported last weekend.
Speaking to the media en route to Vietnam, Mattis said USAID is about to about to start a major remediation project there at Bien Hoa Air Base from the old days. “And we had promised to help, and this promise goes back more than, I think, four years. So this is America keeping her promise to remediate some of the past.”
“So between our two nations, we respect the past, or we have. But we're also looking toward the future. And the legacy of the war has turned into, actually, a basis for defense cooperation,” the secretary added.
“It is clear from the US National Security Strategy and US National Defense Strategy that the United States views Vietnam as an important strategic partner,” said Emeritus Professor Carl Thayer from the Australian Defense Force Academy.
During his present visit Secretary Mattis is likely to propose steps for future defense cooperation including further support for Vietnam in UN peacekeeping such as the UN Mission in South Sudan, capacity building to enhance Vietnam’s maritime domain awareness and future ship visits to Vietnamese ports, Thayer added.