In a move reminiscent of President Nixon’s historic visit to China, albeit on a smaller scale, the USS Ronald Reagan [CVN-76], a Nimitz-class supercarrier of the U.S. Navy, arrived at Vietnam’s Da Nang port on Sunday. This port is located approximately 150 miles away from the nearest Chinese territory, the southern province of Hainan. The USS Ronald Reagan was accompanied by two guided missile cruisers, making this visit far from ordinary.
Joining the impressive aircraft carrier on this significant journey were the USS Antietam and USS Robert Smalls. Their arrival marked the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-Vietnam “comprehensive partnership,” a milestone deserving of commemoration. It is worth noting that this visit occurred just weeks after Hanoi lodged protests against a Chinese vessel encroaching on its waters. The timing of the U.S. Navy’s arrival adds an intriguing dimension to this evolving maritime narrative.
This visit by the USS Ronald Reagan is only the third instance of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier being present in Southeast Asian waters. The supercarrier, named after the late President Ronald Reagan, made its debut visit, following in the footsteps of the USS Carl Vinson [CVN-70], which undertook a historic voyage in 2018, the first of its kind since the Vietnam War. This was followed by the USS Theodore Roosevelt [CVN-71] in 2020, symbolizing the restoration of diplomatic ties between Hanoi and Washington over the past 25 years.
Initially scheduled for last year, the visit of the USS Ronald Reagan was abruptly canceled, likely due to escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The current arrival is now seen as a “positive expression” of Washington’s unwavering commitment to maintaining peace in the South China Sea. Rear Admiral Pat Hannifin, Commander of Task Force [CTF] 70/Carrier Strike Group [CSG] 5, expressed his excitement as the U.S. nuclear aircraft carrier sailed into Vietnam. He emphasized that such visits strengthen the partnership between the two nations and demonstrate their commitment to addressing shared maritime concerns. Furthermore, these visits provide an excellent opportunity for U.S. sailors to immerse themselves in Vietnamese culture.
In addition to fostering cultural and professional exchanges, the USS Ronald Reagan’s notable visit encompasses a range of community service projects, sports competitions, and receptions. Adding a melodic touch to their endeavor, the U.S. Navy musicians from the U.S. 7th Fleet Band are scheduled to offer free concerts to the public.
Captain Daryle Cardone, the commanding officer of the USS Ronald Reagan, expressed anticipation for the opportunity to immerse the ship’s crew of over 5,000 in Vietnamese culture upon their arrival in Da Nang. While some sailors have Vietnamese origins, for the majority, this will be a novel experience. The crew eagerly awaits engaging in volunteer work at community events, participating in sports competitions with local athletes, and taking part in a special culinary exchange.
Presently, the CVN-76, a U.S. Navy carrier based in Yokosuka, Japan, serves as the sole sentry patrolling the Indo-Pacific waters. Its Pacific counterpart, the USS Nimitz [CVN-68], is currently stationed in Pearl Harbor.
Nevertheless, the region is not solely under the watchful eye of the CVN-76. The USS America [LHA-6], an amphibious assault ship, has also made its presence felt in these waters. Recently, it made a brief three-day visit to Brisbane, Australia. Despite being an assault ship, the USS America holds its own, rivaling the size of many foreign-operated carriers.
However, the USS America’s purpose in the region extends beyond leisurely cruising. It is preparing to participate in Talisman Sabre 2023, a multinational exercise led by the U.S. and Australia. Scheduled to commence next month, this iteration of the exercise will be the largest to date, involving more than 30,000 military personnel from 13 nations. Participants can expect a wide array of activities, ranging from field training drills and amphibious landings to ground force maneuvers, as well as air and maritime operations.
Talisman Sabre 2023 serves as a significant event on this year’s military calendar, highlighting the collective strength of the participating nations, which aim to ensure peace and stability prevail in the region.
Envision the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, cruising into Vietnamese waters. It represents not just a routine patrol, but also a resolute message to an increasingly assertive Beijing. Despite the reduced size of the U.S. Navy, Washington is not backing down; instead, they are forging alliances with a single objective: to uphold peace and stability in the region.