Destroyer USS John S McCain. Photo by U.S. Navy/File Photo
The US transferred seven security vessels to Vietnam last week.
U.S. senator John McCain visited an American missile destroyer dubbed “Big Bad John” that docked in Vietnam Friday, as Washington and Hanoi deepen military ties amid heightened tensions in the South China Sea.
The Vietnam vet toured the guided-missile destroyer USS John S McCain, named after his father and grandfather, both naval officers, in southern Cam Ranh Bay.
The visit comes after a U.S. warship sailed near an artificial island built by Beijing in the South China Sea last week. The sea is officially known as the East Sea in Vietnam.
The U.S. also transferred seven security vessels to Vietnam last week.
The ship’s routine technical stop on Friday was a “strong symbol of the positive trajectory of the U.S.-Vietnam comprehensive partnership,” according to a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam.
McCain praised the American sailors as he toured the massive destroyer in the strategic southern port, Vietnam’s largest naval base, with fellow senators Christopher Coons and John Barrasso.
McCain, a former navy pilot, was shot down during a bombing mission over North Vietnam in 1967 and famously became a prisoner of war in Hanoi’s Hoa Lo prison, dubbed the “Hanoi Hilton”.
His pilot uniform is today displayed in the prison, now a tourist attraction in Vietnam’s capital city.
Vietnam and some neighbors have been criticizing China’s island building campaign, but the Philippines has warmed up to regional superpower China.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s rise to the White House has also cast uncertainty over American foreign policy in the oil-rich waterway.