While once bitter enemies, the U.S. and Vietnam increasingly have mutual interests in the Asia-Pacific region, as China becomes both more powerful and more aggressive in the area. To combat China’s reckless behavior, and help panicking Asian neighbors, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced that the military will give about $18 million in financial aid to help Vietnam buy U.S. patrol boats. This comes as a direct response to China’s increased maritime activities in the South China Sea.

Carter was in Hanoi on Monday, where he held talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phung Quang Thanh.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Carter called for more cooperation between the United States and Vietnam to help maintain the peace and increase the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

The Pentagon’s new pledge comes after participants at the Shangri-La Dialogue regional security forum over the weekend expressed deep concern about China’s aggressive maritime building projects.

China has conducted large scale reclamation work in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea for military purposes.

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