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Thayer Consultancy Background Briefing:

ABN # 65 648 097 123


Vietnam: Three Navies to Visit
Cam Ranh International Port
Carlyle A. Thayer
September 20, 2018

We would like your assessment of foreign naval ships’ visits to Vietnam. Canada is
going to send its HMCS Calgary to Da Nang next week, and this week we had a
Japanese submarine docking in Cam Ranh for the first time, and earlier this month
Vietnam received a South Korean destroyer.
Q1. What do these visits mean at a time of escalating tension in the South China Sea,
and increased assertiveness by China?
ANSWER: All maritime powers have a national interest in the maintenance of
freedom of navigation and overflight on and over the high seas. The sea lanes that
pass through the South China Sea are vital sea lines of communications (SLOCs) that
sustain the global economy. Canada, Japan and South Korea are three such maritime
powers. The HMCS Calgary made a visit to the port at Ho Chi Minh City previously;
its visit to the Cam Ranh International Port is a manifestation of Canada's resolve to
play a greater role in the Indo-Pacific. Japan has a similar motivation plus it is
responding to Chinese assertiveness by pushing back.
Q2 Can we look at these countries responding to the U.S.’s calls for actions to
challenge China in the South China Sea?
ANSWER: Japan, South Korea and Canada are all treaty allies of the United States. It
is clear that U.S. allies must do more to contribute to regional security to assuage
President Trump who views many allies as "free riders." This means they depend on
the U.S. to provide security while playing a minimal role. These days are over.
Canada, Japan and South Korea are demonstrating that they too can bring something
to the alliance table. But these countries have their own national interests in keeping
the SLOCs from being dominated by any single country.
Q3. What does Vietnam’s geographical position mean in maintaining order in the
area?
ANSWER: Cam Ranh Bay is a strategic harbour because of its location facing the East
Sea and because it is naturally protected from bad weather. Vietnam built Cam Ranh
International Port (CRIP), a commercial port, to make facilities available for transiting
navies. It is in Vietnam's interest to have foreign naval powers pass through the
South China Sea as long as they contribute to regional peace and security. CRIP is not
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a military facility. Vietnam welcomes visits by the navies of all countries, including
China.
Several years ago ships and a submarine from Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force
visited the Philippines and then Cam Ranh International Port. The submarine did not
enter CRIP at that time. This year the visit by a Japanese submarine demonstrates
that Vietnam has been more accommodating to foreign navies. The Japanese
submarine is an important demonstration of naval power and adds risk and
uncertainty to China's military posture in the South China Sea.

Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Vietnam: Three Navies to Visit Cam Ranh
International Port,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, September 20, 2018. All
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Thayer Consultancy provides political analysis of current regional security issues and
other research support to selected clients. Thayer Consultancy was officially
registered as a small business in Australia in 2002.