China Power

China Warns of ‘Counterstrikes’

China’s state-run media warns of possible military action in the ongoing row with Vietnam in the South China Sea.

China’s state-run media warned Tuesday that Vietnam should be prepared for military ‘counterstrikes’ in the ongoing territorial row between the two countries.

In an editorial Tuesday, The Global Times argued that in previous military conflicts between the two, China had ‘tried hard to show restraint.’

‘But that seems to have only made Vietnam more daring still,’ the editorial continued. ‘Vietnam's interpretation of China's peaceful policy appears to be that whatever Vietnam does, China will refrain from using force.’

The warning comes a week after Vietnam undertook live-fire drills in the South China Sea, following what it claims has been Chinese harassment around disputed territory.  In May, Chinese patrol boats were accused of cutting the cable of a Vietnamese oil and gas survey ship, two weeks before a Chinese fishing boat is said to have rammed another PetroVietnam vessel. 

Vietnam has for its part responded with an announcement stating which of its citizens would be exempt from military service if an armed conflict were to occur. 

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With these developments in mind, Hanoi will likely have welcomed remarks by US Sen. John McCain yesterday, in which he called on the US military to boost its forces in the South China Sea to counter what he described as China’s ‘unsubstantiated’ claims.

‘China seeks to exploit the divisions among ASEAN members to play them off each other to press its own agenda,’ McCain was quoted by AFP as saying at a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Still, in a positive move, China and Vietnam today also concluded joint naval patrol operations in the Gulf of Tonkin.

‘Respecting the signed agreements is one of the factors that will promote the friendly and neighbourly relations between two countries and ensure sustainable stability and security at sea,’ Col. Nguyen Van Kiem, deputy chief of staff of the Vietnamese Navy and commander of its naval ships in the patrol, was quoted by the Inquirer as saying.