The American government will provide $18 million to help Hanoi buy patrol boats, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Sunday during his tour to Hai Phong City in northern Vietnam, part of his three-day visit to the country which started the same day.
The U.S. defense chief made the pledge after touring a Vietnamese coast guard ship that was hit by a Chinese vessel during a skirmish in the East Vietnam Sea, according to Reuters.
Secretary Carter, who comes to Vietnam at the invitation of Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh, also visited the Vietnam Naval High Command and the High Command of the Vietnam Coast Guard Region 1 in Hai Phong on May 31.
"We need to modernize our partnership. After 20 years, there is more we could do together," Reuters quoted Secretary Carter as saying to reporters in Hai Phong.
As part of that effort, Washington will help improve Vietnam’s maritime defense capabilities by providing $18 million to help Hanoi buy U.S.-made Metal Shark patrol boats, Reuters cited Secretary Carter as saying.
He also said the navies of the U.S. and Vietnam had been "building habits of cooperation" by working together, the British news agency said.
In April they conducted exercises under rules laid out in the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, a set of regulations approved by multiple maritime nations last year at a meeting in China, it added.
Also on Sunday, the U.S. defense chief met with Vietnamese Deputy Defense Minister Admiral Nguyen Van Hien, during which the two sides said bilateral defense cooperation has been based on respect for Vietnam’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, according to the Vietnam News Agency.
The host and guest also affirmed that Vietnam-U.S. defense cooperation has not affected the Southeast Asian country’s relationships with other nations.
The same day Secretary Carter also met Major General Nguyen Quang Dam, the Vietnam Coast Guard commander, who said that local coast guards are willing to maintain maritime safety and security in accordance with international law.
On June 1, the U.S. defense leader is scheduled to have talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phung Quang Thanh, and the two sides will sign a joint vision statement.
The U.S. guest will also pay courtesy visits to Vietnam’s Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and State President Truong Tan Sang today.