First U.S. warship arrives in Vietnam since wars end


2003.11.19
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A U.S. warship has docked in Vietnam�s largest city, becoming the first such vessel to visit there since the end of the Vietnam War nearly three decades ago, RFA's Vietnamese service reports.

The USS Vandegrift sailed into port under scorching sun in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, as local onlookers watched.

"We are showing the world that former foes can be friends," U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Raymond Burghardt told journalists. "We had developed a good commercial relationship between our two countries, and it was time to put some of the other pieces in place. In the future we will work out with the Vietnamese government where we go from here, what the next steps are."

The American vessel flew both U.S. and Vietnamese flags, while ship Commander Richard Rogers and the U.S. Embassy Defence and Army Attache Stephen Ball witnessed a wreath-laying at a statue of Vietnam's first president, Ho Chi Minh.

"We are most privileged and honored to be accepting this invitation on behalf of the United States Navy and the U.S. government," Rogers told reporters on board the 4,100-ton vessel. "I think this ship visit, as all our ship visits that we do in the Pacific Rim, leads to the normalization of relations between two countries."

The warship belongs to the U.S. Seventh Fleet and sailed from Yokosuka, Japan in early November.

Its visit follows Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra�s trip to Washington last week in a bid to revive bilateral military relations. It was the first such visit by a leader of the Vietnamese military since the Vietnam War ended in U.S. withdrawal and defeat in 1975.#####

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