The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Chinese Sabotage in the South China Sea

China hasn’t been doing much to win friends lately. On Tuesday, Vietnam denounced China’s claims to the Spratly and Paracel islands, in reaction to Chinese sabotage of oil explorations by a Vietnamese company. Vietnamese leaders are now up in arms, pledging to protect their economic interests in the South China Sea. Reuters has the story:

Vietnam’s condemnation came a day after its state oil and gas company, Petrovietnam, accused Chinese boats of sabotaging an exploration operation by cutting a seismic cable being towed behind a Vietnamese boat.

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry spokesman condemned the cable cutting as well as some recent Chinese provincial regulations that identified the disputed Spratly and Paracel islands as Chinese, and a map that did the same thing.

This incident has sparked a similar response from India whose state-run gas company Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) has claims of its own in the disputed area. Indian Navy chief Admiral D K Joshi has echoed Vietnam’s complaints, pledging to protect India’s economic interests in the Pacific. The Indian Express reports:

Expressing concern over the rapid modernisation of the Chinese forces, the top naval officer said the force was prepared to deploy assets if need be to protect Indian interests, particularly oil blocks allocated to it by Vietnam in the area.

“Not that we expect to be in those (South China Sea) waters very very frequently, but when the requirement is there, for example in situations where our country’s interests are involved, for example ONGC Videsh etc, we will be required to go there and we are prepared for that. Are we preparing for it? Are we holding exercises of that nature? The short answer is yes,” Admiral Joshi said, speaking on the eve of Navy Day.

China is becoming more aggressive at asserting its dominion beyond its shores. And this may be only the beginning: China announced that a controversial policy of searching and seizing foreign vessels in Chinese waters will take effect next month. If anybody in the Obama administration thought that the ‘pivot to Asia’ was going to lead to an era of calm in American foreign policy, they know better now.

Published on December 4, 2012 7:00 pm