Sailors from the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt and guided-missile cruiser Bunker Hill are visiting the Vietnamese port of Da Nang, a trip that includes sports competitions and community service projects.

The warships arrived Thursday, the Navy said in a news release, in time to commemorate a quarter-century of improving U.S. and Vietnamese diplomatic relations.

“This visit demonstrates the strength of our bilateral relations and highlights our continued cooperation with partner countries and our strong support for the region, including institutions such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Vietnam is this year’s chair,” strike group commander Rear Adm. Stu Baker said in a prepared statement.

“It also serves as evidence of the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific where strong, independent nations respect one another’s sovereignty, and uphold the rule of law," Baker added, signaling a show of solidarity with Vietnam amid simmering relations between the U.S. and China.

From the mid-1950s until the fall of Saigon in 1975, the United States had backed South Vietnam in its long civil war with communist North Vietnam. But concerns about a rising China in both Hanoi and Washington helped thaw tensions.

The Big Stick’s visit arrives two years after the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson made history by becoming the first U.S. flattop to visit Vietnam in four decades.

“This visit will not only serve to strengthen our bilateral defense relationship, but also help further advance our cultural and professional ties,” said Capt. Brett Crozier, Theodore Roosevelt’s commanding officer, in a statement.

“We are honored to take part in this important port visit and to receive such a warm welcome.”

Courtney Mabeus is a senior writer at Navy Times. Mabeus previously covered the military for The Virginian-Pilot, in Norfolk, Va., where she first set foot on an aircraft carrier.

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