A U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the end of the Vietnam War, dramatically underscoring the growing strategic ties between the former foes at a time when China’s regional influence is rising.

The imposing grey silhouette of the USS Carl Vinson could be seen from the cliff tops just outside the central Vietnamese city of Danang, where the 103,000-tonne carrier and two other U.S. ships begin a five-day visit.

“The visit marks an enormously significant milestone in our bilateral relations and demonstrates U.S. support for a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam,” Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. ambassador to Vietnam, said in a statement.

“Through hard work, mutual respect, and by continuing to address the past while we work toward a better future, we have gone from former enemies to close partners.”

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