If simmering tensions erupt into full-blown conflict in the South China Sea, increasingly it seems the first shots to be fired would be between China and Vietnam.
The two rival sea claimants have been locked in a weeks-long standoff over the energy-rich Vanguard Bank, with neither side apparently ready to back down. While China opposes any rival claimants’ move to develop energy resources in contested sea areas, the current confrontation with Vietnam may serve a dual strategic purpose
Vietnam is Beijing’s “preferred warm-up fight,” he wrote earlier this year before the Vanguard Bank standoff, reasoning it is “a middle-sized power that should be easily defeatable” by the Chinese military.
Although conflict is still unlikely, Beijing is again ramping up its aggression and “gunboat diplomacy” by pressuring Hanoi to end its exploration for oil and gas in the contested waters.
In July, a Chinese survey ship, Haiyang Dizhi 8, along with an armed flotilla, spent weeks sailing near the Vanguard Bank, a maritime area well within Vietnam’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
In mid-August, after it seemed the survey ship had returned to China, it reappeared in Vietnamese waters where local and Russian energy firms are jointly exploring for oil.
https://www.asiatimes.com/2019/09/artic ... ?_=5679735