“Vietnam now has a Coast Guard vessel that is the largest vessel in their Coast Guard fleet. We were very pleased to be able to provide that. We will continue to take additional efforts to increase Vietnam’s maritime capabilities,” Patrick Murphy, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State on East Asian and Pacific Affairs, told the media at a teleconference Friday.
“It’s important for Vietnam, it’s important for the region. They have a lot they can contribute,” Murphy said.
In May 2017, the U.S. transferred its former cutter, USCGC Morgenthau, to the Vietnam Coast Guard through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program. The ship now serves the Vietnam Coast Guard as CSB 8020.
Referring to the 25th anniversary of the normalization of Vietnam-U.S. diplomatic relations this year and Vietnam becoming ASEAN’s chair next year, Murphy said the U.S. “looks forward to working very closely with Vietnam on regional issues and our bilateral relationship.”
He also said that the U.S. would continue carrying out its freedom of navigation activities in the South China Sea, and that all nations in the world benefit from traffic and trade on sea routes being unimpeded. Vietnam calls the waterway the East Sea.
Under the administration of President Donald Trump, the U.S. Navy has been conducting freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea and sailing close to the artificial islands China has illegally constructed in Vietnam’s Spratly (Truong Sa) Islands.
The U.S. Air Force in March also deployed B-52 bombers to carry out freedom of overflight in the sea twice.
“We will, as a matter of policy, continue to sail, to fly, to operate wherever international law operates,” Murphy said.
He also asserted that the Indo-Pacific region is a top priority for the U.S. government.
“There are many visions within the region, and we welcome that, we embrace that, but we’re very encouraged to see such commonality among these visions in a free, open, and rules-based Indo-Pacific.”