Over the course of last week, Chinese ships attacked and damaged Vietnamese fishing vessels near the Paracel Islands. And, as Bloomberg reports, Vietnam pushed back:
Chinese vessels damaged a Vietnamese fishing boat with water cannons on June 7 and three days later a Vietnamese fishing boat was attacked and robbed of equipment and its catch, Thanh Nien newspaper reported Sunday. The clashes follow other recent incidents, with a Chinese marine police boat reportedly spraying water cannons at a Vietnamese fishing vessel in late May. […]Authorities took “necessary measures” to pressure Chinese vessel 517 to leave Vietnam’s waters on June 8, Le Hai Binh, Vietnam’s foreign ministry spokesman, said on June 11 in response to a question about the actions of a Chinese oil exploration ship.
Lately, most of the more dangerous incidents have been in the Spratly Islands, a separate chain that’s been the site of most of Beijing’s recent island building projects. The waters around Paracels, which is what Vietnam is most concerned about, are where China placed an exploratory oil rig last year, setting off riots across Vietnam so intense they left people dead.China’s aggression against its adversaries in the South China Sea seems to be amping up, despite strong warnings from the Obama Administration. These run-ins with Vietnam give more cause for China observers to wonder whether the White House has been caught flat-footed, without a strategy in place to back up threats against an opponent that may not find them credible. The U.S. has many challenges ahead in plotting its China policy—for a thorough assessment of the factors involved, we recommend Karl W. Eikenberry’s comprehensive article in our upcoming issue, “China’s Place in U.S Foreign Policy.”