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Esper says US providing Vietnam with coast guard ship

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the United States is providing Vietnam with a surplus American ship for its coast guard.

Esper made the announcement during a speech Wednesday at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, a government university in Hanoi. He said it would be provided next year, but he gave no details on payment or exact timing.

Esper also was meeting in Hanoi with senior Vietnamese government officials. It is his first visit to the country since becoming defense secretary in July.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, right, and U.S. Ambassador to Hanoi Daniel Kritenbrink prepare before a meeting with Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP PhotoHau Dinh)

Vietnam is one of the most vocal critics of China’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea and has accused Beijing of encroaching into its waters.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich stand for national anthems during a welcome ceremony in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP PhotoHau Dinh)

U.S. SDefense Secretary Mark Esper, right, and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich review an honor guard in Hanoi, Vietnam on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP PhotoHau Dinh)

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, center, and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich review an honor guard in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP PhotoHau Dinh)

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, left, and Vietnamese Defense Minister Ngo Xuan Lich talk before a meeting in Hanoi, Vietnam Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. Esper is on a visit to Vietnam to strengthen the military relations with the Southeast Asian nation. (AP PhotoHau Dinh)