Chinese naval ships set for first visit to Vietnam's Cam Ranh international port
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HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam will receive three Chinese warships from Saturday at its newly-opened Cam Ranh international port, a provincial government official said on Thursday, following a similar visit by U.S. vessels last month.
The visit will run from Saturday until October 26, an official of the external relations department of Vietnam's central province of Khanh Hoa, where the port is located, told Reuters.
The official, who declined to be identified because of lack of authorization to speak to the media, gave no further details.
The visit will be the first by Chinese navy ships to Cam Ranh, state-controlled news website VnExpress said, adding that 750 Chinese military personnel would participate in activities with Vietnam's navy.
The new international port is separate from Vietnam's military installations at Cam Ranh, a strategic deep water bay used by the U.S. during the Vietnam war.
Vietnam's invitation to China, although the two nations are at odds over the South China Sea, is in line with the Communist Party's stated goal of a balanced foreign policy that favors no country, even as ties with Washington are at their warmest yet.
It comes amid uncertainty over the U.S. "pivot" to Asia, and troubles with some of its historic alliances and with a new administration soon to be decided in Washington.
"This is actually quite normal, showing that Vietnam is open to all countries and does not take any particular side," said Ha Hoang Hop, a Vietnamese academic who has advised the government.
"Vietnam's diplomatic policy is to not engage with any military ally, or engage with any country, to oppose a third country," Hop said.
Vietnam, however, welcomes a U.S. role in the region when it intervenes to keep peace, stability and prosperity, a top Vietnamese general said on Monday.
The deep water bay at Cam Ranh is now home to Hanoi's fleet of modern submarines, the key plank of its deterrent strategy for the South China Sea.
Since opening early this year the international port has hosted ships from several countries including France, Japan, Singapore and the United States.
(Reporting by My Pham; Editing by Mai Nguyen and Clarence Fernandez)
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