A U.S. Navy aircraft carrier is expected to make a unique port call in Vietnam this March, a decision that comes amid increased Chinese aggression in the region.
While other American naval vessels have visited Vietnam, the visit would be a first for an American aircraft carrier.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis discussed the upcoming visit with Vietnamese officials who are seeking final approval from senior officials, the Associated Press reports.
Mattis mentioned the carrier visit during remarks opening a meeting with Communist Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong.
"Thank you for the increasing partnership with our aircraft carrier coming in to Danang here in March," Mattis said.
The port call is expected to upset China, as the United States and Vietnam have been cooperative with one another regarding freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. As China has sought to expand its influence in the region, the U.S. Navy has continued to pass through, ensuring freedom of navigation. China has criticized movement in the region as a threat to small land formations and waters it claims as its own.
Vietnam has also been a U.S. ally in administering sanctions against North Korea. During is flight to Vietnam, Mattis praised the country's leaders for their stance in supporting sanctions, "at some cost to them."
"We appreciate the leadership on that–leading by example and stepping up," Mattis said.
During the visit, Mattis also toured Hanoi and praised a 6th century pagoda in the country's capital.
"Beautiful. Peaceful," Mattis said. "It makes you think more deeply."