HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (CNN) – For the first time in nearly 30 years a U.S. warship has docked in the port of Saigon in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City. CNN’s Mike Chinoy who is in Ho Chi Minh City says Vietnamese who fought on either side of the war, as well as those born after the conflict, have given universal support to ship’s visit and the gesture of goodwill on the part of the U.S.
More than 60 percent of the country’s population was born after the war ended in 1975 with a communist victory over United States-backed South Vietnam
Government and military officials from both sides were on the dockside to welcome the ship’s arrival which is being seen as an important step in improving military relations between Vietnam and the U.S.
The one-time adversaries have already taken huge strides in bolstering diplomatic and economic ties.
Officials say America is now the top importer of Vietnamese products with bilateral trade totaling above $3 billion a year.
The Vandergrift’s port call follows a landmark meeting at the Pentagon last week between Vietnamese Defense Minister Pham Van Tra and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
The visit was the first time a senior Vietnamese military official has visited Washington since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.
More than 58,000 U.S. troops died during the 20-year war, and more than three million soldiers died on the Vietnamese side.
In addition more than 1,000,000 civilians across the divided country died during the war.