The United States announced on Wednesday that it will provide Vietnam with another coast guard cutter for its growing fleet of ships, boosting Hanoi’s ability to patrol the South China Sea amid tensions with China.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper disclosed the decision during an address in Vietnam, which has emerged as the most vocal opponent in Asia of China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.
In his speech, Esper aimed at China, which he accused of “bullying” neighbors, like Vietnam.
“China’s unilateral efforts to assert illegitimate maritime claims threaten other nations’ access to vital natural resources, undermine the stability of regional energy markets, and increase the risk of conflict,” Esper told students at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.
The vessel will be Vietnam’s second cutter from the U.S. Coast Guard, which just two years ago transferred a Hamilton-class cutter to Vietnam. By providing the ships, the U.S. hopes to enable Vietnam to assert its sovereignty and deter China.