Once rivals, the United States and Vietnam continue to strengthen their ties, this month conducting a weeklong series of naval engagement activities, to commemorate the 15th anniversary of normalization of relations.
Military cooperation has grown since the first U.S. warship made a port call in Vietnam in 2003, including high-level defense talks and training. Beyond growing economic and cultural ties, our 2 nations share a common interest in maritime security in the region, based on a common belief that freedom of navigation of the sea is very important for trade and international relations.
Beginning August 8, the weeklong exercise kicked off when the U.S. Navy hosted a delegation of Vietnamese military and government officials aboard the USS George Washington, a nuclear powered aircraft carrier cruising, the waters off Vietnam's central coast. Then on August 10, a Navy destroyer docked in Da Nang to begin a series of non-combatant training activities with the Vietnamese Navy focusing on search and rescue and damage control operations, such as fire fighting and emergency repair. The exercises had been planned for several months and follow a meeting in Hanoi last month between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vietnam's Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem.
While differences remain between our 2 nations, growing cooperation and respect have developed between us. The United States is Vietnam's top export market and leading foreign investor. Discussions recently were concluded on sharing civilian nuclear fuel and technology.
Since formal relations were restored 15 years ago, the United States and Vietnam have established trust and mutual respect. Cooperative efforts such as this month's naval exercises show that the relationship will continue to grow.