MOSCOW/ WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Russia on Friday rejected US concerns about its use of a former American base in Vietnam for the refueling of Russian bomber flights around US territory in the Pacific, dismissing recent US statements as “puzzling” and “strange”.
Reuters reported on Wednesday that the United States had asked Vietnam to stop letting Russia use Vietnam’s Cam Ranh Bay for tanker aircraft that have refueled nuclear-capable bombers engaged in shows of strength over the Asia-Pacific region.
“It is strange to hear such statements from representatives of the state whose armed forces are permanently stationed in a number of Asia-Pacific countries and which continues to increase its level of military activity in the region,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said.
It said US statements that the refueling of Russian bombers from Vietnam could lead to increased regional tensions was “puzzling.”
The ministry said Russian Air Force activities and cooperation with Vietnam were “carried out in strict accordance with international norms and bilateral agreements are not directed against anyone whatsoever and shall not be a threat to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”
General Vincent Brooks, commander of the U.S. Army in the Pacific, told Reuters last week the planes had conducted “provocative” flights, including around the U.S. Pacific Ocean territory of Guam, home to major American bases.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Jan. 4 that Russian Il-78 tanker aircraft had used Cam Ranh Bay in 2014, enabling the refueling of nuclear-capable TU-95 “Bear” strategic bombers, a statement also reported in Vietnam’s state-controlled media.
On Thursday, US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States did not want Russia to use Cam Ranh Bay.