Vietnam has overlapping claims on some islands in the sea's Spratly and Paracel chains, and tensions have flared between the two neighbors over these disputes.
Top leaders from both the United States and Vietnam discussed the possibility of an aircraft carrier visit a year ago in an effort to further relations.
"The USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier is the epitome of modern naval power", Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor at the Australian Defence Force Academy and an expert on the South China Sea, wrote in a policy briefing in late February.
It marked the largest American military presence on Vietnamese shores since 1975, signaling the emergence of an unlikely alliance between Washington and the Southeast Asian communist regime.
The U.S. and Vietnam first announced in January that the USS Carl Vinson would be making a stop in Vietnam, and Hanoi's diplomats have been working to calm their Chinese counterparts ever since.
Danang, which was a major USA military base during the war, is now Vietnam's third-largest city and is in the midst of a construction boom as dozens of resorts and hotels pop up along its scenic coastline. The Carl Vinson carries over 5,000 sailors, which is the largest contingent of American soldiers to land in Vietnam since US troops withdrew in 1975.
Sailors are expected to participate in cultural and professional exchanges during community service projects and receptions. The expansion has angered Vietnam and other nations in the area which also have territorial claims in the South China Sea.
"Vietnam has been deeply concerned about China's pugilistic and aggressive moves in the South China Sea".
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Vietnam is perhaps the only stakeholder still taking a strong stance against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, now that Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has largely folded his cards.
"Now the aircraft carrier comes with a completely different mission, a mission of peace and promoting economic and military cooperation between the two countries", he said.
"I'm not going to speak specifically to China", Rear Admiral John Fuller, commander of the Carl Vinson strike group, told reporters Monday.
Huynh Quang Nguyen, a taxi driver, echoed the sentiment.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told reporters Friday that China hopes the "exchanges between [the US and Vietnam] would contribute to regional peace and stability in a positive and constructive way, instead of adding any unsettling factors".
On previous occasions, the U.S. Navy has made it clear it will not be deterred from sailing through worldwide waters by the presence of militarized Chinese islands and will continue to patrol the region as it has done for the past 70 years.
The visit is meant to demonstrate the countries' growing military ties.