By Rebecca Shabad - 12/16/13 12:39 PM EST
Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday that the United States is expanding assistance for maritime capacity building in Southeast Asia.
Tensions have escalated recently between Japan and China over claims to territory in the South China Sea.
Of that total, up to $18 million in new assistance will go to improve Vietnam’s coastal patrol units.
Kerry denied that the assistance was related to the feud between Japan and China.
“This maritime announcement has nothing to do with any recent announcements by any other country or any of the tensions in the region. It is simply not a response to those recent announcements,” he said at a joint press conference in Vietnam Monday. “This is part of a gradual and deliberate expansion that has been planned for some period of time which we have been working on."
This trip was Kerry’s first visit to Vietnam as America’s top diplomat and the first time he returned to the country’s Mekong Delta since the Vietnam War.
President Obama has tried to make a focus on Asia a hallmark of his second term, dubbed the Asian “pivot.” Obama has tried to shift gears from the Middle East and concentrate on strategic advancements in Asia.