Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus visited sailors participating in the sixth annual Naval Engagement Activity (NEA) between the navies of the U.S. and Vietnam in the central Vietnamese city of Da Nang on Thursday afternoon as part of his visit to the Southeast Asian country.
Mabus addressed the crews of littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), as well as staff from Destroyer Squadron 7 (DESRON 7), the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City said the same day in a press release.
The two warships, part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, arrived at Da Nang’s Tien Sa Port on Monday to join the five-day NEA, which includes the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) in its activities.
“As part of the Navy’s forward deployed naval force, the sailors of Fort Worth and Fitzgerald should be proud of the difference they are making during exchanges like NEA Vietnam,” Mabus was quoted as saying in the press release.
“It’s through these face-to-face engagements that we are able to deepen our relationship with Vietnam,” the secretary added.
He stressed that the opportunity for Fort Worth and Fitzgerald to get underway together with the Vietnam People’s Navy will build confidence and ensure safe communication when their ships meet again in the open sea, according to the press release.
Mabus also highlighted the importance of exchanges like NEA Vietnam in fostering relationships and strengthening maritime partnerships, the consulate general said in the document.
U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus (C) and U.S. naval staff salute each other at Tien Sa Port in Da Nang City on April 9, 2015. Photo: U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City
U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius and Consul General Rena Bitter also accompanied Mabus in Da Nang.
“I am immensely proud of how far our two navies have come since 2003, when we conducted our very first U.S. Navy Goodwill and Friendship port call in Vietnam,” Osius was cited as saying in the press release.
“It took vision, hard work, and most of all, trust, to get us to this point. If we have learned anything over the past 20 years, it’s that nothing is impossible,” he added.
In the morning of the same day, the two sides’ naval forces practiced the CUES.
On the previous days, they experienced non-combatant events and skills exchanges in military medicine, search and rescue, and maritime security.
The sixth NAE has taken place as both nations celebrate the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2015.
Hanoi and Washington normalized their diplomatic relations in 1995, twenty years after the end of the war.
The first NEA began more than a decade ago, when guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) was the first U.S. Navy ship to visit Da Nang, July 28, 2004.
At his talks with Chief of the General Staff of the Vietnam People’s Army and Deputy Defense Minister Senior Lieutenant General Do Ba Ty in Hanoi on Wednesday, Secretary Mabus said the potential for naval cooperation between Vietnam and the U.S. is great and joint activities between the two navies will contribute to fostering the ties of their armed forces.